2024 Masters’ Meet Reports

Erith Masters – Bexleyheath – May

Returning to his first individual competition since 2022, Graham Powell posted times that took him close to the top in this year’s British Masters rankings for his 65-69 years’ age group.

Graham Powell: Happy to be back…

Graham proved to be in rip-roaring form even before he swam. Texting his family with a suggestion for his forthcoming 68th birthday, thank goodness he had spare trunks in his bag.

Winning his 100m Butterfly, Graham admitted to tying up over the last 25m as he touched in 1:18.14. However coming off a 35.31 second split, Graham had put down a marker as he proceeded to win the 50m event in 34.03. Both swims were ranked as the third fastest times this year in his age group.

Two further victories came with his 100m and 50m Backstroke races in times of 1:18.63 and 35.35, placing him so far 3rd and 4th in his age groups rankings for 2024.

Supporting Graham was Alastair Gibb who swam distinctly better paced races in both his 400m IM and 400m Freestyle than he had in Swansea the previous month. They do say short course racing is a whole lot different to long course!

GB Masters – Swansea – April

Just two of our Masters chose to compete in the 2024 GB Masters held in Swansea but Karen MacKenzie ensured the trip was productive as she came away with two Bronze medals and a new County record from her four races.

Just over a second outside of her own Beds County record in her first event, the 200m Backstroke, Karen’s time of 3:02.09 saw her finish in 6th place in the 50-54 years’ age group. The winner set not just a new British and European but also a new World record for that age group!

Undeterred by such competition in her age group, Karen got herself on to the record books in the 200m Individual Medley. Reducing her own County record by 0.22 seconds, Karen’s time of 3:09.68 saw her comfortably claim the Bronze medal.

Seeded third fastest for her age group on qualification times by just 0.84 seconds, Karen knew that her 400m IM on the Saturday morning was going to be a much more closely fought battle. Swimming in the seeded heat immediately following her closest rival for the bronze, Karen’s split time was just 0.43 seconds ahead at the half way stage, extending it to just 0.66 at 250m. With a strong second 50m of Breaststroke Karen was ahead by 1.36 seconds before the freestyle leg. Coming home with a 1:29.19 split for the last 100m, Karen claimed the third place with a time of 6:46.11; in the end a margin of 2.46 seconds.

Little wonder though that Karen had run out of energy by the time of her last event, the 100m Backstroke for which she claimed 5th place. Nevertheless, Karen managed to quickly shower and get back to the hotel before they finished serving the hot cooked breakfast – washed down by a welcome mug of Cornish tea.

Competing for his last year in the Men’s 60-64 age group, Alastair Gibb claimed 5th place in both his 50m Butterfly and 50m Breaststroke with 8th place in both his 400m IM and 400m Freestyle.

Newmarket Masters – Newmarket – April

The ninth annual Newmarket & Seniors meet provided an opportunity for some of our Masters to return to competition after varying lengths of absence. There was the added bonus of numerous medals for their respective collections.

In her last year in the 40 – 44 years’ age group Michelle Neal convincingly won both of her events, the 50m and 100m Freestyle. Michelle’s times of 30.99 seconds and 1:10.07 were also her fastest short course swims since the October 2022 National Masters.

Sharon Thompson had not competed since October 2019. Winning a bronze medal for her 50m Freestyle, Sharon proceeded to pick up silver medals for her 200m and 400m Freestyle races, establishing new Club Masters’ 55 – 59 years’ age group records in the process. Her time in the 400m event was a second faster than when Sharon previously swum the event back in 2018.

Having tipped his toe as a “Senior” (ages 18- 24 years) in Newmarket last year, after a seven year competitive absence, Tom Burns returned to swim in his first “Masters” competition in the 25 – 29 years’ age group. He came away with a silver (50m Breaststroke) and two bronze medals (100m Freestyle & 100m IM). Tom’s 100m IM time of 1:16.32 was faster than he had ever swum the event as an age group swimmer.

After a six month hiatus from competition, John O’Rourke set himself an ambitious programme swimming a total of 1,000m in six events over the two sessions. In his new age group, the 55 – 59 years’, John came away with three silvers, two bronze and a fourth place position. His 400m Freestyle time of 5:47.09 was his quickest since April 2022, as was his 50m Backstroke time.

Derbyshire Masters – Moorways – April

Whilst his club mates were swimming in Newmarket, Sam Bradley chose to venture North to compete in a Long Course meet. Those long course training sessions at 5:30am on a Wednesday morning proved worthwhile, with Sam registering his fastest ever 100m and 200m Backstroke events as a Masters swimmer in a 50m Pool. His winning times of 1:26.61 and 3:00.99  beat his own club records in the 30 – 34 years’ age group by 0.65 and 1.92 seconds respectively. Sam also set a new Club Masters record for his 800m Freestyle time of 11:25.61, collecting the silver medal.

Bracknell & Wokingham Masters -Bracknell; March

Sam Bradley was in record-breaking form at the annual Bracknell Masters Meet. Nine medals, of which six came from Backstroke events, were brought home by the trio of Sam, Alastair Gibb and Karen MacKenzie.

L-R: Sam Bradley, Karen MacKenzie & Alastair Gibb

Sam showed his current form from the start, reducing his own 30-34 years’ age group 200m Freestyle Club Record by 1.92 seconds in his first race to claim the bronze medal with a time of 2:42.00. A further bronze medal swiftly came from his 50m Backstroke before picking up gold medals over 200m and 100m on the same stroke. Sam’s 2:59.51 set new Team Luton Masters figures for the longer distance whilst he took 1.95 seconds off his own 100m Club Record with his 1:23.86. A fourth Club Record came with Sam’s 50m Butterfly in which he finished 5th in a time of 40.61 seconds, beating his Club record by 0.35 seconds.

Karen MacKenzie was our other Club Masters Record breaker, smashing the 50-54 years’ 200m Freestyle record by over twenty seconds to finish in fifth place. Unsure of how to pace the race in her first competitive Masters swim over that distance, Karen nevertheless finished strongly to stop the clock at 2:41.31.  After claiming the 50m Backstroke bronze medal, Karen missed out on the gold in the 200m by less than half a second to pick up the silver for her time of 2:56.97.

Alastair Gibb had a “swim-over” to collect the gold medal for his 60-64 years’ 200m Individual Medley and went on to finish in second spot over both 200m and 100m Backstroke.

Sth East Masters Long Course – Crawley; January

Karen MacKenzie, Michelle Neal and Sam Bradley all swam personal Masters lifetime best times at the South East Long Course Master, setting three Beds County and four Club records in the process.

Competing in the Men’s 30 – 34 years’ age group, Sam Bradley was with a second of both of his own Club records over 200m Backstroke and 200m Freestyle. Having finished second over the longer Backstroke event, Sam proceeded to claim the gold medal over100m. His winning time of 1:26.61 smashed his own Club record by over two seconds. In the two day event held in Crawley, Sam returned the next day and chased down Karen MacKenzie over the last leg of his 400m IM to claim a second silver medal. His time of 6:44.56 set new Masters Beds County and Club records for the event. It  was a second faster than his previous best time from 2019.

Karen swam her 50 – 54 years’ 400m IM in an adjacent lane, also setting new County and Club masters records with a time of 6:44.36. Holding off Sam by just 0.2 seconds, Karen claimed a bronze medal to match her placing in the 100m Backstroke. A silver medal had already come Karen’s way by virtue of her 200m Backstroke. She reduced her own County and Club records with an all-time Masters personal best of 3:00.81.

Swimming for the last year in her 40 – 44 years’ 100m Freestyle, Michelle Neal bettered her long course personal best time by half a second, finishing 6th in 1:12.83. The time of 32.02, to finish 5th, in her 50m Freestyle was just 0.3 seconds outside Michelle’s personal long course best.