The colour and atmosphere that makes County Team Championships special

It’s like no other event in the calendar. Esther Roberts found out from coaches and competitors what makes the National County Team Championships so special.

The atmosphere was vibrant, the noise was deafening and Ponds Forge was bursting with a team spirit and competitive energy that would be hard to match at any other swimming event.

As the competitors and crowds gathered for the National County Team Championships, the Sheffield pool was awash with a sea of colour as swimmers from across Britain donned face – and, in some cases, full body – paint to show off their true allegiances.

And for many, it is an event they relish taking part in.

Berkshire & South Bucks swimmers Kreswin Smith, 13, and Alice Weston, 13, said: “We’ve travelled 170 miles to be here and we are having the time of our lives.”

Shropshire were looking forward to taking part in Division One for the first time in the history of the competition.

Although their campaign ultimately ended in a swift return to Division Two as they finished bottom of the table, boys’ team captain Charlie Hutchinson enjoyed the challenge.

“It’s a great opportunity and great fun,” he said.

“As soon as we walked through all the Scottish were shouting at us, making the atmosphere great – we couldn’t even talk to each other.”

A unique format

What makes this event so special is that counties get the opportunity to come together and race in a team format rather than individuals against each other.

Gerry Gillespie, head coach for Middlesex, said: “We are very excited to be here.

“This event is a highlight for us because it’s not often that we get a chance to take part in a team event where we can represent the county.”

With 37 teams from across England, Scotland and Wales taking part, there was plenty of banter and support from the stands.

Devon won their first county title as they topped Division One with a total of 469 points, while Swim Wales West were victorious in Division Two.

But it wasn’t all about the final result.

Built on team spirit

Jamie Ward, the junior coach for Scotland East says: “Our kids have been up since seven getting their face paint ready, their outfits sorted and getting ready to absolutely go for it.

“They are driving our enthusiasm.

“The atmosphere is brilliant, it’s just an absolute mad place to be – the teams are all pumped up.”

When asked about his team’s chances for the competition Jamie said: “I’m not really thinking about it.

“We are just here to do the best we can do and to show the best team spirit.”

And that is something that is clearly evident at the County Team Championships – team spirit.

Roll on this time next year!

Photo: Will Johnston Photography

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