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Trio of top swimmers crowned champs
21st February 2019

THREE talented swimmers are the pride of Ripon Grammar School after two were crowned double county champions with the third winning the title for the region.

The dedicated trio, who put in hours of training, usually twice a day and often involving 4am starts, are among the fastest swimmers in the country.

Christa Wilson, 15, from Dishforth, has been selected to represent the North-East region in the 200m butterfly against top competitors from all over the country at the English Schools National Swimming Championships in Crawley in March.

With her sights set on making it to the Olympics in 2024, her time of 2min 15sec has already seen her ranked second fastest in Britain in her category.

Anna Marley, 17, from West Tanfield, and Imogen Vollans, 15, from Ripon, each won the Yorkshire Amateur Swimming Association County Championship titles in the 100m and 200m backstroke for their age groups.

And both Anna and Christa have also been picked to take part in the British Swimming Championships in Glasgow in April, where the best swimmers from across the British Isles will be selected for the European Championships.

RGS director of sport Adam Milner described all three girls as supremely talented: “They do amazingly well, balancing their commitments. They spend a huge amount of time before school and after school travelling long distances to train, while also swimming for school teams. They are a real credit to school and themselves.”

Christa, a member of the Newcastle Swim Team, travels more than 1,000 miles a week to train with her elite swim squad, competing at county, regional, national and international level and winning numerous titles over the years.

She gets up at 3.45am four times a week to train in Newcastle for two hours at a time, starting at 5.30am, then trains four times a week after school as well as in Sunderland at weekends.

“I train for about 16 hours a week and do quite a lot of school work in the car and as soon as I get home. There are a lot of late nights and early mornings, but I enjoy it. I have never wanted to give up. I’m quite competitive.”

She qualified for the European Youth Olympic Festival trials last year and has been crowned county champion for Northumberland and Durham 20 times for different events.

Having learned to swim when she was six months old, she began competing from the age of nine: “Eventually, I want to go to the Olympics but this year I want to make the European team,” she explained.

Anna, a member of Harrogate District Swimming Club, juggles swimming with studying for A-levels in chemistry, geography and maths and practising for her Grade 8 singing exam: “I have to manage my time really well and plan when to do things.”

She gets up at 4am, three times a week, to drive herself to Harrogate to train for two hours before school, as well as spending six hours a week in the pool after school, in addition to Saturday mornings.

Hoping to study medicinal chemistry at university, she says: “Being busy actually makes me manage my time better. It’s also about finding a balance.”

Having started swimming when she was six and competing from the age of nine, she came in at an impressive 1min 5.63sec and 2min 19.30sec in the 100m and 200m Yorkshire County Championships, as hundreds of spectators, including her mother, Jill, looked on: “I was thrilled. I have quite a competitive nature and am very determined,” she says.

Imogen, from Ripon, also trains with Harrogate District Swimming Club before and after school and spends Friday evenings coaching 6-10-year-olds in trampolining and gymnastics.

“I used to do gymnastics too, but had to give it up. I now fit studying into any free time I have off,” she explains. 

Having started swimming at aged five, she began to enter races when she was 11: “I am very competitive. I was very happy with my times in the county championships but now I just want to get faster.”

*English Schools National Swimming Championships will be held on March 23.