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North champions Great Arley aim to retain national swimming title

Great Arley's North Panathlon winners Wade Jones, Nicola Wild, Ethan Whitehead, Lewis Duerden, Emily Lowe and Edward Wallis.
Great Arley's North Panathlon winners Wade Jones, Nicola Wild, Ethan Whitehead, Lewis Duerden, Emily Lowe and Edward Wallis.

Swimmers from Great Arley School in Thornton won the Under-14 Panathlon North of England Swimming Final in Sheffield as they bid to be crowned national champions for a second successive year.

Swimmers from Great Arley School in Thornton won the Under-14 Panathlon North of England Swimming Final in Sheffield as they bid to be crowned national champions for a second successive year.

The panathlon combines traditional aquatic events and fun-based swimming games.

Eight schools from across the north of England battled it out at the famous Ponds Forge pool, where Great Arley racked up 78 points to finish ahead of Blackpool’s defending champions Park Community Academy, who were second with 64.

Both Fylde coast schools have again qualified for the national finals at London’s Aquatic Centre, where Great Arley were triumphant last year .

Points were awarded throughout the event based on the ability level of every competitor, which kept everyone guessing on the final results until the wall had been touched in the very last race.

Babs Rowley, deputy headteacher at Great Arley on Holly Road, said: “This is one of the most important things for our children. They live near the sea, so we like them all to swim and to achieve their very best as well as raising their self-esteem and confidence.

“The children back at school can see what they are achieving and it instils into them that they can do it as well. There are a lot of fun games involved with a crucial team element, which is great for our children as they can socialise and work as a team.”

Great Arley pupil Ethan Whitehead added: “It feels pretty great! I enjoyed the raft race and I loved that you had to swim across and keep everything on board.

“It was fun but also a nervous game. I won’t be taking this medal off and might even sleep with it on!”

Fellow pupil Lewis Duerden said: “I swam as fast as I could to try to reach my targets. It feels really good. The medal will be going somewhere special in my house.

“We will really need to focus in thenational finals. I am going to have to swim as fast as a shark!”

Park Community Academy’s PE co-ordinator Stuart Johnson was eager to point out how important panathlon events are for his school.

He said: “I think this event certainly raises the profile of swimming and it is nice to have success, but what is really nice is that it encourages other kids to want to take it up.

“We have a lot more children wanting to come to the after-school clubs and swim. For me, that really is what it is all about – getting kids in the pool and encouraging them to participate in sport.

“Everything Panathlon stands for in terms of sportsmanship, encouraging participation and the competition element are all values that we very much want to instil into our kids.”