Entries flood in for Crown Pools event
SWIMMING: This weekend will mark the opening of the county's biggest annual swimming competition. From Saturday, Crown Pools in Ipswich will be hosting the ever-popular Suffolk County Championships for swimmers from all over the region.
By Debbie Watson
THIS weekend will mark the opening of the county's biggest annual swimming competition.
From Saturday, Crown Pools in Ipswich will be hosting the ever-popular Suffolk County Championships for swimmers from all over the region.
Several hundred competitors are expected to take part in this year's event – which will be held over a series of galas lasting until March 24.
As ever, organisers of the 2002 "Suffolks" have found themselves inundated with entries.
A huge team of dedicated administrators has spent the last few months sifting through submitted times and allocating all entrants with an initial heat placing for each of their requested races.
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Don Neate is the county secretary for Suffolk ASA and he has fond memories of the championships, dating back many years.
"My wife and I became involved in the Suffolks when my son started swimming back in 1975," he said.
"He was nine when he went to his first gala for Bury St Edmunds and at that event someone threw a watch in my hand and told me I was the time-keeper – I've been involved ever since."
Don has records of Suffolk County swimming competitions which go back as far as 1913. He says there has always been some equivalent to the Suffolks throughout all that time.
"In the very early days, the competitions were held out in the river and were huge regional events – and over time it evolved into the pool.
"There's a tendency to think that the County Championships has always had its home in Ipswich, but in fact, that's only been true since we got Crown Pools – as recently as 1984."
He said: "Before Crown Pools, the Suffolks took place over several weeks at different venues around the county. Now everyone comes here to Ipswich and the event is really well recognised."
Don, who lives in Bury St Edmunds and is 66, has always shown a steadfast commitment to the Championships.
On both his silver and ruby wedding anniversaries he was tirelessly working at the event alongside his wife – a showing of sincere loyalty that was rewarded with a gift from the County Association.
Don added: "There is a lot of change in the Championships at the moment and a lot of the emphasis is on encouraging the swimmers to extend their competitive range.
"For a long time we expected them to concentrate on being really good at one or two strokes but now, with the way the ASA is changing, people are more likely to compete in everything.
"This time around at the Suffolks you'll also notice that the Individual Medley is the race to be seen doing and that many more people will be doing long-distance races of 200 metres-plus."
The contest is generally accepted as a perfect arena for the region's top swimmers to battle against well-matched rivals.
It is also a great first taste of serious competition for many youngsters.
Among this year's competitors, some of the best recognised Suffolk swimming faces will also be appearing in the pool.
Both Karen Pickering and Zoe Cray intend to race – though, owing to their respective Commonwealth bids, they will not complete a full series of races.