A-level student Will Graham hit peak form as he stormed to a national title as part of an impressive Melton Swimming Club quartet.
The Melton swimmer won 50m butterfly gold (17yrs) at the Swim England National Summer Championships in Sheffield, three years after landing the same title at under 14s level.
Graham took a quarter-of-a-second off his previous best in the heats to dip below the 26-second barrier for the first time, and then lowered the mark by the same margin in the final to take gold.
His winning time of 25.75secs was comfortably good enough to qualify for the British Winter Championships next March when all of the top British Olympic swimmers will be on show, trying to qualify for the Commonwealth Games.
“I was quickest at 50 fly going into the championships, but knew I had to pull out a strong swim to stay there,” he added.
“My heat swim was great, but even from there I knew I could have gone faster.
“My mum filmed the heat and looking back at it I saw where I could make improvements, focussed on those in the warm-up and made up time there.”
Graham also sliced a whole second off his 100m butterfly PB to reach the final where he finished sixth, and then came 10th in the 50m freestyle final, having set one of three club records in the heats.
But he just missed out on the 100m freestyle final after setting the 13th-quickest time in the heats.
The 17-year-old, who studies at MV16 in Melton, had a disappointing 2017 in the pool, but with GCSEs completed and after streamlining his swimming career, he hit the ground running this year.
“At the start of the season I had no idea I would do this well,” he explained.
“I was focussed more this year and cut down the number of events.
“As you get older you mature and start focussing on one or two strokes and distances.
“As I started more gym work I slowed down over the longer distances, so staying away from them has helped, and I’ve come on leaps and bounds in the sprints.”
His impressive form was, in part, a reward for staying loyal to Melton Swimming Club despite offers from big city clubs.
“I’ve been asked by City of Leicester a few times, but I wanted to stick with Melton and support the club,” he said.
“For a club like Melton to get four people to the nationals this year was really good, and Tracey (McGhie - head coach) is hoping for at least 10 next year. They have done an outstanding job.”
The grassroots club, based at Waterfield Leisure Centre, underlined their ambitious approach with a clutch of top performances.
Michael Hill made the 50m freestyle final (18 and over) on his national debut and finished 10th, just shy of his heats time of 24.17secs.
Clarice Ellingworth, another first-timer on the big stage, had a great heats swim to make the 16yrs 100m breaststroke final, improving her time to finish 10th in 1min 18.16secs, just shy of her PB.
Three days later a superb swim in the heats placed her in the 50m breaststroke sprint final with a time of 35.35secs, going on to finish 10th once more.
Leah Walker became the fourth Melton SC representative on the final day of competition in the 17 and over girls’ 50m butterfly, agonisingly missing the final by finishing 11th in the heats.
“It was an amazing week for the club, and a great way to end the season, competing with the top city clubs, said Melton SC head coach Tracy McGhie.
“Our swimmers were all superb ambassadors for their club in their professional preparation and approach. Four swimmers, eight events, six finals, three club records, one gold medal, and one very proud coach.
“Huge thanks go to all our volunteer coaches, supporters and sponsors, including Everyone Active, Melton Council Sport Health Alliance, Joe Humphreys Memorial Trust Inspire, and Catmose Sports Centre.”