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The NZSS Swimming Championships have been contested on an annual basis since 2011.
Wellington College won the inaugural meet, which included one trophy awarded to the best overall boys, girls and co-ed school, and they won the next two boys meets after that when separate trophies were awarded to the leading boys, girls and co-ed schools.
Westlake Boys’ High School (twice), Auckland Grammar School and Tauranga Boys’ College won the Boys Trophy between 2014-2017.
This year’s championships were held at the Wellington Aquatic Centre over six sessions from last Thursday to Sunday, and it was once again Wellington College that emerged victorious on the final day, reclaiming the title with a completely new team from the one that last won in 2013.
The Wellington College team won 27 medals (eight gold, eight silver and 11 bronze), with 16 of 26 swimmers contributing points, across five age divisions, in a short-course (25m) format.
Team co-captain and year 13 swimmer Thomas Watkins won four golds on his own and led by example in and out of the water, but said it was a genuine team effort that was the key to victory.
“The meet started with a relay session on Thursday and at that point we were behind St Andrew’s. We had a look at it and we managed to get behind every race and come through in the end on Sunday.”
It was tight throughout. “I think we were ahead after most of the sessions from Friday to Sunday but it was close and there was always a team right behind us.”
Points in each race were awarded for the first 10 places, on a sliding scale of 26, 21, 17, 14, 12, 10, 8, 6, 4 and 2 points per race.
“We had a lot of swimmers, myself included, who entered many events that they don’t normally compete in, and while they weren’t getting the medals they were still getting ninth and 10th and accumulating those smaller points which were also very important.”
Wellington College won with 830 points, ahead of St Andrew’s College on 766 and Pakuranga College in third on 571.
Individually, Atakura Julian was also strong in the same grade as Watkins. Eligh Ashby did extremely well to successfully clean-sweep the butterfly events in the 15 year age group for his three gold medals. Both Dillon Raimona-Pahetongia and Jonas Lilley were similarly prominent.
“Many of us are part of the same swim club [Capital] and we are all swimming together quite regularly, so it wasn’t too hard to get a good team bond going,” said Watkins.
Wellington College’s team was also swimming for the school’s swimming master Martin Vaughan who is retiring from this role this year, having been in charge of the school’s swimming programme since 1983.
“We all wanted to get up for Mr Vaughan who has done a great job for many years and we want to keep the swimming tradition going for the school that he has been a huge part of."
Whilst Wellington College won a three-peat between 2011-2013, this is was the first taste of success for every team member. “I have been to every NZSS swimming championships since I have been year 9, but this was my first win, so it was good for us year 13s to cap it off.”
Watkins said that there are a number of swimmers coming through so the future looks bright for the school.
For many of the elite swimmers, the NZSS meet also served as preparation for the New Zealand Short Course Swim Championships at the Sir Owen G Glenn National Aquatic Centre from 2-6 October.
Watkins trains with the Capital swim squad and swimming is his sole sporting focus. “I played hockey in year 9 and 10 but I let that go because swimming takes up my time. I am in the water about 20 hours a week so it gets a bit taxing.”
At the end of August he competed at the Junior Pan Pacific Championships in Fiji, competing against the best U19 swimmers from countries such as the USA, Australia, Japan, China and Canada.
"It was a great trip. I competed in the 100m backstroke, 200m backstroke and 400m IM. I hadn’t really swum in an outdoor pool before so I struggled a little bit on my first day in the 100m backstroke and I finished 12th overall. Then in the 200m back and 400m IM I made both A finals and I PB’ed in the morning and I finished 8th in the backstroke and seventh in the IM.”
Meanwhile, Auckland’s Diocesan School For Girls won the Girls Trophy at the NZSS meet, finishing on 1115 points and head of second placed Waikato Diocesan School on 1004.5 points, with a big gap to third-placed Wellington school Samuel Marsden Collegiate on 466.5 points.
St Andrew’s College won the Co-ed Trophy, ahead of Pakuranga and Kapiti Colleges.
Waikato Dio (girls), St Andrew’s College (boys) won the relay trophies
Some 64 boys, 62 girls and 10 co-ed teams took part.
Points Table Top 5 – Boys Trophy competition:
Historical results – male competition:
Wellington College medals won at the 2018 NZSS Championships:
Thomas Watkins (Co-Captain) – 4 gold, 1 silver, 1 bronze medal (Senior age group)
gold 100m Individual Medley
gold 200m Individual Medley
gold 100m Backstroke
gold 200m Backstroke
silver 50m Backstroke
bronze 100m Freestyle
Eligh Ashby (Captain) – 3 gold medals (14 Year age group)
gold 50m Butterfly
gold 100m Butterfly
gold 200m Butterfly
Atakura Julian – 4 silver, 2 bronze medals (Senior age group)
silver 100m Butterfly
silver 200m Butterfly
silver 100m Freestyle
silver 200m Freestyle
bronze 50m Butterfly
bronze 400m Freestyle
Dillon Raimona-Pahetongia – 2 silver, 3 bronze medals (13 Year age group)
silver 50m Butterfly
silver 100m Freestyle
bronze 50m Backstroke
bronze 50m Freestyle
bronze 100m Butterfly
Jonas Lilley – 1 silver, 2 bronze medals (14 Year age group)
silver 400m Freestyle
bronze 200m Freestyle
bronze 200m Individual Medley
Senior relays – gold, silver & bronze medals
Thomas Watkins, Atakura Julian, Harrison Neal, Sean Register
gold – 4 x 100m Freestyle relay
silver – 4 x 50m Freestyle relay
bronze – 4 x 50m Medley relay
15 Yrs and Under relays – 2 bronze medals
Jonas Lilley, Lucan Speirs, Eligh Ashby, Shane Maskell
bronze – 4 x 100m Freestyle relay
bronze – 4 x 50m Freestyle relay
The Full College Team is listed below:
Thomas Watkins (Co Captain)
Harrison Neal (Co Captain)
Queran de Vos
Jedi Morland Janes
Caelum de Vos