James Bartley refound his form at the perfect time to land a brilliant regional title and qualify to take on the country’s best young swimmers.
The exciting Melton sportsman, who is based at a specialist swimming college in Devon, produced an incredible weekend in the pool at the South West Regional Championships.
After a difficult summer hampered by physical issues, Bartley achieved six qualification times for the national winter championships and was crowned South West junior champion at 400m individual medley.
The former Melton Swimming Club member also won silver in the 1,500m after clocking a big new personal best of 16min 27.07secs, and was just outside the medals in fourth place at 200m backstroke and 400m freestyle.
“The regionals went very well for me as I qualified for a lot of events at nationals,” he said.
“It was the best meet I’ve had for a long while.
“The times I achieved have made me feel like the nationals will be promising.”
Bartley, who turned 15 in July, faces a busy time of it at the nationals after qualifying for the 400m and 1,500m freestyle, 200m and 400m individual medley, 200m backstroke and 200m butterfly.
And he will have a few points to prove after a mid-season dip blighted his last appearance on the big stage.
Bartley qualified for a personal best eight events at the English National Summer Championships in August, but was unable to perform at the same peak form he showed in his breakthrough 2017 season.
Dad John said: “His form dropped over the summer as he grew and lost a bit of weight, but he seems to be in good form now.
“We are hoping that he keeps growing and building up to a successful national campaign in December.”
The teenager left home last year to take up a place at Mount Kelly College, a specialist swimming facility, and enjoyed a terrific season.
He swept to a 14-medal haul at the county championships, including five golds, as well as four top-10 finishes at Midlands level, most notably a 200m breaststroke bronze.
Bartley also swam to top-10 finishes in all four disciplines at his first English Age Group Championships last summer, and then finished an encouraging 13th on his British Championship debut at 400m IM.
And the current Melton Times Junior Sportsman of the Year will head to Sheffield in December confident he can recapture that form.
“For the nationals, I’m hoping to get to a few finals so I can get more experience at the top-level meets and race the very best in my age group,” he added.