During the May half term, a team of 18 Southampton divers and 3 coaches made the long journey to Sheffield to compete at the Ponds Forge International Sports Centre in the ASA National Age Group Finals competition, taking place over 6 days, is the pinnacle of the competitive year for divers at this level and marks the finale to many hard months of training. This years event was coupled with the Junior Elite National Championships (aged 13 & Under) and Southampton Diving Academy was represented by Cameron Gammage, aged 13 years and Angus Kerr, aged 12 years. This was the first time the two Southampton boys had qualified to dive at the elite level, and they faced stiff competition from the other top 9 boys in Britain, including one, who has already received international honours. This was going to be no stroll in the park!
The first events were the synchronised diving competitions which are so very impressive to watch. Junior Elite diver Angus Kerr joined forces with one of his rivals, Tyler Humphries (Southend Diving Club) to take the silver in the Boys 8-13 Years Junior Elite Synchro on 3m. In the Age Group competitions, Milly Batten, the youngest of the Southampton girls, partnered another South East Regional diver, Tilly Brown (Star Diving, Guildford) in the Girls 8-13 age group on the 1m Springboard. The two had only had one practice session together before these finals and were thrown into the competition against seasoned and well practised partnerships from clubs up and down the UK so they did incredibly well to finish in 9th place out of a field of 16, with several 7’s and 8’s being awarded for their synchronicity on their forward dive pike. In the Girls 14/18 years competition on the 3m Springboard, Jade Brindley and Jessica Bennett finished 4th, narrowly missed out on a bronze medal by just 3 points. The synchro partnership of Thomas Bailey and Elliot Moorhouse on the 3m also earned a 4th place in the boys 14/18 event.
And so to the individual age group events. SDA came away with an impressive 2 golds and 3 silver medals.
At this level of diving, the standard is extremely high and to finish in the top 6 is a great achievement, so Southampton Diving Academy were delighted when Evelyna Johnson was crowned National Champion on the 1m Springboard in Girls aged 12/13 with a consistently solid performance and scoring a rare 8 from the judges for her inward 1.5 somersault. Not content with just one medal, Evie also won silver in the Platform competition.
SDA had outstanding results in the boys 14/15 age group. Flying the flag was Rhys Crookes who won two silver medals in the 1m and 3m Springboards with a raft of high scores and some beautiful dives under real pressure from the 22 strong field. Rhys just missed out on a 3rd medal on the platform, finishing 4th by a single point. In the 3m event fellow SDA team-mate Thomas Bailey dived out of his skin to take the title to the delight of the rest of the squad, winning his first ever National title.
Other top 6 finishers for Southampton were Scott Palmer (who was revising hard for his GCSE’s in between dives) in the Boys 16/18 group finishing a solid 5th in both the 1m and 3m Springboard; Milo French, the youngest member of the squad, finished 6th whilst celebrating his 10th Birthday in the Boys 10/11 group scoring 7’s for his inward pike on the 1m Springboard; and Jessica Bennett also taking 6th place on the Platform for Girls 14/15 group pulling off a risky two and a half inward tuck somersault from the 7.5m.
In the Junior Elite events Cameron Gammage and Angus Kerr competed in the same age group, the 9/13 Years, the standard of diving and the pressure on the young divers was ridiculously high. Both boys made the finals in all 3 events which is a major achievement.
First up was the 3m springboard event in which Cameron placed fourth, 16 pts short of a medal with his best performance coming on his back 2.5 somersault for which he scored 53 points. Angus placed 6th, having performed some excellent required dives.
Next was the 1m springboard event in which the places were reversed with Angus placing 5th, raising his game with three superb dives in the final to lift himself a placing and achieve a personal best score. Cameron finished 6th also with a new personal best score.
In the Platform event Angus improved on his preliminary placing of 4th with three fantastic dives in the final to take the silver medal, assisted by his forward two and half somersaults piked from the 7.5m which scored a phenomenal 8.5 from one of the judges. Cameron demonstrated an impressive back two and half somersaults in the preliminaries to achieve a score of 54 points and second place in the qualifying round but slipped to fifth in the final despite two high-scoring dives.
It wasn’t just the young divers who took prizes though, Southampton’s Director of Coaching, Lindsey Fraser, was awarded the Jeff Cook trophy. This trophy is for outstanding contribution to the sport of diving. This includes supporting not only her divers, but coaches within the diving community, so it was no surprise that two of her own young coaches, Lauren Grinstead and Jack Clewlow each returned with a National Champion Diver from this competition – a credit to Lindsey’s nurturing. Lindsey was both surprised and delighted to receive the cup.
This was a really successful meet for the youngsters taking part, most of them qualifying at this level for the first time in their young careers and the coaching team were full of praise for their efforts and conduct throughout.
Boys 10/11 1m: M French 6th, E Bennett 15th: 3m: E Bennett 14th, M French 15th Platform : M French 11th, E Bennett 16th
Girls 10/11 1m : M Batten 16th, 3m : M Batten 9th, Platform : M Batten 8th
Boys 12/13 1m: R Brown 17th, 3m : R Brown 19th, Platform : R Brown 18th
Girls 12/13 1m : E Johnson 1st, G Kirkham 17th, L Bailey 22nd, T Pritchard 31st 3m: E Johnson 10th, T Pritchard 14th, G Kirkham 19th, L Bailey 22nd Platform : E Johnson 2nd, G Kirkham 10th, L Bailey 12th, T Pritchard 13th
Boys 14/15 1m : R Crookes 2nd, W Osborne 8th, T Bailey 9th, E Moorhouse 10th 3m : T Bailey 1st, R Crookes 2nd, W Osborne 13th, E Moorhouse 16th Platform : R Crookes 4th, W Osborne 9th, T Bailey 12th, E Moorhouse 13th
Girls 14/15 1m : K McArthur 19th, J Brindley 22nd, J Bennett 23rd, S Torpey 25th, E Adams 31st 3m: J Bennett 15th, K McArthur 20th, E Adams 22nd, S Torpey 24th, J Brindley 31st Platform : J Bennett 6th, S Torpey 8th, K McArthur 13th, E Adams 27th
Boys 16/18 1m : S Pamer 5th 3m : S Palmer 5th
Boys 14/18 Synchro 3m T Bailey & E Moorhouse 4th
Girls 10/13 1m Synchro : M Batten & T Brown (STAR) 9th
Girls 14/18 3m Synchro : J Brindley & J Bennett 4th, K McArthur & S Torpey 9th