Friday 16th November, 10am. The team has been picked. The entries have been made. Sharkey and Mark have picked up the minibuses. Tim has sent his usual 3am pre-BUSA message to Mark and Gray ("I'm excited"). The Set of Champions has been done twice. The only remaining question: can BUSA possibly live up to the frankly ridiculous amount of hype built up over the past weeks?
After an amusing team photo at the Armitage (Billy Kwiatkowski and Terry Charalambous causing the photographer some spelling issues), Team Swim headed to the waiting minibuses to begin the journey to Sheffield, where 3 days of swimming beckoned. To the thumping beat of "We Like To Party", Mark's Vengabus and Sharkey's Shuttle of Delayed Sexual Bliss roared out of Manchester.
With Irish John's megaphone, Tim kept everyone amused on the bus with his various rants and terrible jokes. In fact, Tim developed something of an obsession with the megaphone, and went for several hours using it for everything he said - though whether the surrounding teams on poolside wanted to know what Gavin Hunter did last BUSA is a different matter.
Shortly after arriving at the hotel, another BUSA tradition was carried out - Tim prank-calling everyone from his room and soon after being blocked by reception, again. At 3:45pm, the Team headed down to Ponds Forge: the first of many walks to the pool where we would spend around 24 hours over the next 2 days.
Friday night was a night of many firsts: from Erica Brown being first swimmer from any Uni into the water during the warm-up, the first time anyone could consider 1500m enjoyable to watch and the first glimpse of what would be a staple of the weekend - Andy Cowan's insatiable thirst for sharking.
Joe Banns was the first Manchester swimmer to compete, stepping up for the 800m Freestyle, coming 18th. Laura Bowden and Jill Nesbitt followed in the next few heats, achieving 5th and 6th positions respectively.
Next up was the Men's 200m Freestyle relay: a very tough race with Manchester's team (Mark McKenna, Joe Bill, Rob Gater and Terry Charalambous) qualifying for the 'A' final in 9th.
The 1500m is perhaps not often an event that people like to remember - 60 lengths of hard swimming, hard spectating and sore feet. But Tommy Sheldrick's performance will go down in folklore, totally setting the tone for the weekend and drawing audible groans of pleasure from many of his watching male team-mates. Not content with about to lay down an excellent time and 12th position, Tommy showed quite stunning testicular fortitude by going the full 15m underwater off turn 59: unexpected, uncalled-for, and unquestionably brilliant. The Relentless Killing Machine, Erica Brown, was next up to the plate in the 1500m and delivered 4th position, just 0.24s off the club record, in a time of 17:40.77.
The final swimming event of the day was the Women's 200m Freestyle relay, with the team (Sarah Westwood, Claudia Powell, Steph Hill and Abi Tetley) easily qualifying for the A final in 2nd position.
As is tradition on Friday, there was a mad rush to eat our pub-meal and get to the club at Sheffield Union on time. With a number of alumni members joining us, the night was a lot messier than some intended, although a mere warm-up for the main event on Saturday night.
Despite a few casualties, Saturday morning saw the team arrive on poolside looking keen and eager at 8am. Abi Tetley and Jess Pealing kicked off the proceedings in the 200m Freestyle, Abi qualifying for the final in 5th, and Jess swimming well to 24th. The word on the street was that Mark McKenna was gunning for Smithy's club record in the Men's event: a big scalp to take, but take it he did in 1:51.95, qualifying 4th for the final. Rob Gater joined Mark in the 200m, coming 18th in an excellent time of 1:59.42.
With the absence of Liam Tancock, the 50m Backstroke was viewed with disdain by certain male members of the Team, but Sarah Westwood qualifying 5th for the Women's final in 30.69 - just 0.05s off her club record - certainly helped alleviate the pain at the Great Man's missing presence. Sarah Fischer came 18th in 33.29, and was reportedly so disgusted with her swim she decided to take on the 200m Butterfly first thing on Sunday morning: not happy at all. Affif Grazette and Billy competed for the men.
The two biggest sharks in the club - Andy Cowan and Michael Sharkey - swam 50 Breaststroke shortly after Jenny Salmon and Lucy McFarland had embraced their swims: Andy finishing just 0.03s ahead of Sharkey.
Steph Hill cruised through to the women's 100 Fly final in 2nd place; Lucy McFarland and Rob Gater also swam the 100 Fly: the last of the morning races.
Saturday afternoon began with 200m Backstroke: Laura Bowden making the women's final, Steph Porter reportedly swimming one of the worst races of her life. Omar and Gray swam in the men's; Gray swimming a strong PB and Omar entertaining the team and everyone else with a slow-motion slip shortly afterwards. Both Abi and Claudia made it through to the Women's 50m Free finals, and Erica Brown was to join them later after qualifying 7th in the 200m Breaststroke. Joe Bill, Billy, and Jess Pealing swam good times in the 50m Free (twice) and 200m Breaststroke respectively, followed by Ryan "Dean" Saunders and Martyn Cornish.
To the strains of Rocky's "Gonna Fly Now", Captain Mark Howard stepped up to his race in a full-length Rocky robe, to the delight of the Manchester team and bemusement of most other people. However, the Loughborough coach was greatly amused so perhaps Mark can use this as a way of getting close to Liam. Either way, it was important for Mark to deliver a good swim after such a dramatic entrance, lest he look like a show-boating fool. But Mark isn't captain just because of his beautiful face, impeccable dress sense, smooth legs, great teeth, perfectly toned body, incredible approachability, tantalising smile and flawless kissing technique; and deliver he did in his 400m IM, reeling several of his opponents in during a feisty backstroke leg. Andy Cowan may or may not have been sharking at this point.
The last remaining events were the 200m Medley relays: the girl's qualifying as the fastest team, and the boy's sadly just missing out on the A final.
And so we came to the Finals Session on Saturday, with all the spectators thinking about the night out in Hallam in just a few hours, and all the swimmers thinking about the night out in Hallam in just a few hours as well. In fact Abi could barely wait to get out of the water, and so swam a blistering 200 Free just shy of the club record, coming home in 5th. Mark "Mr Tickle" McKenna beasted a delicious 200m Freestyle, breaking the club record again in a time of 1:51.37, narrowly coming 4th. Sarah Westwood couldn't let Mr Tickle have all the glory however, and broke her own club record in a very fast 50m Backstroke final, coming 7th in 30.53s.
After missing out on gold by mere milliseconds last year, Steph Hill set out with a point to prove in the women's 100 Fly final; a 3rd turn and last 25m of real quality saw her touch first in 1:02.42 - Manchester had a new BUSA Champion!
Laura Bowden then improved on her 200m Back position, finishing 9th; before Abi and Claudia came 7th and 9th in the 50m Free final - Abi setting a new club record of 26.72s in the process.
Most people would be a little apprehensive at the thought of 2 finals right next to each other; and when those finals are the 200m Breaststroke followed by a 400m IM, it is safe to say that there would quite likely be tears, and also that Andy Cowan would be sharking. However Erica Brown is a relentless killing machine and delivered two fine swims in what may have been the toughest 20 minutes of the weekend for any Manchester swimmer (except for the moment of realisation by Andy Cowan that the megaphone would never leave him alone).
Mr Tickle teased the opposition in his 400m IM final, pretending to be weak and broken in 9th, before reeling them in on the Breast and Freestyle legs, finishing in 5th place.
The Women's team of Sarah Westwood, Claudia Powell, BUSA Champion Steph Hill, and Abi Tetley won another medal in the 200m Freestyle relay, coming 3rd. Shortly afterwards the men wrapped up the day's swimming coming 10th in their A final.
Quite frankly, it was time to party.
After a short while to get ready, the team headed to Mark and Gray's room to munch on pizza, hit the sauce, and get dressed up in tat for the night out. Christmas ties, glittery antlers and novelty pants were all present, before the team shivered all the way to Hallam, where Gray was accosted by security for the most intimate "search" of his life.
Listing all the highlights of that night would be too great a task, but Tim's insistence to form an athletics circle within the first half an hour proved to be a great idea: joint somersaults, cartwheels, and Omar's spectacular forward roll all entertaining us, and probably terrifying the other Unis. Let's be honest, what kind of people get in a big circle in a club, and then do forward rolls?
Rob Gater's girlfriend arrived soon after, and Joe Bill had a quiet bit of advice from Andy Cowan about how best to seduce her - although perhaps shouting how much he'd like to "do her" from across the room wasn't the most subtle way of sharking. In a tense moment, Rob and Joe had a dance-off for her affections, with Rob coming out on top this time. Joe Bill hit the bottle to make up for his loss, before turning his attentions to "the ginger one - I'd do her". Really classy, Joe.
Of course it wouldn't be BUSA without The Hunter-Gatherer pursuing a chosen victim with incredible vigour for a man his age: but did he bite off more than he could chew when settling on a rather feisty Claudia Powell? Quite how Claudia managed to get her leg up onto Matt Moody's shoulder is far from comprehensible, but nevertheless amusing.
Terry Charalambous was greatly hurt by the lack of a Cheese room, and decided to drown his sorrows with alcohol, eventually paying the price by chewing the glass-disposal bin. Right on the dance floor. Needless to say, Terry was escorted from the premises, and it was the best decision of Mark, Gray and Affif's night to go with him. The incident(s) with the cone will live forever in BUSA memory - if you haven't seen the videos, make sure you do. Gray headed back to Hallam to escort a rather less-than-sober Jess Pealing home, where she proceeded to throw both Mark and Gray out of their room: cheers Jess.
Whilst most retired to their beds, Mark and Rob took it upon themselves to "welcome" everyone/anyone home with extensive use of the megaphone's siren, managing to irritate everyone in Sheffield (but amusing those Manchester swimmer's who could hear it as they went to sleep).
Understandably then, Sunday morning saw a fair few casualties laid out on poolside. If there was a legal blood-alcohol limit for swimming, Manchester might not have had many swimmers competing.
Sarah Fischer loves the pain however, and stepped up to take down a vicious 200m Butterfly, coming 16th. Tommy Sheldrick followed in the men's event. Regardless of the night's festivities, Abi made the 100 Free final in a particularly impressive 58.84s, Charlotte Boobyer, Rob Gater and Billy also competing in the 100 Free. It is not known where Rob's girlfriend was at this point, but Joe Bill was mysteriously absent.
Jess Pealing swam a new type of 200m Medley - 100m Breaststroke followed by 100m run to the toilets, something Gray seemed to approve of, following his 200m Medley with a similar dash. In between, the two Sharks (Andy and Mike) swam their 100s Breaststroke, Sarah Westwood made the 200m IM final, and Mark Howard was broken by his 200m IM.
Rachel Bates and Steph Hill swam the 50 Fly next, Steph making the final in 3rd, Rachel narrowly missing out in 12th. Omar and Matt Lees followed in their 50m Fly, displaying impressive times after the carnage of the night before.
In fact it was about this point that the Manchester team learned of what Tim had gotten up to after he left the club last night. Quickly, plans were drawn to apologise to the two Cardiff girls, and a public apology was read out over the PA system.
Julia Warburton and Sarah Westwood swam pleasurable 100s Backstroke, Sarah making the final in 3rd. Incidentally whether Sarah understood Affif as he shouted "Go Viv!" at each of her swims is debatable. Tommy Sheldrick of course offered Sarah his utmost support, Andy Cowan was sharking classmates from the all-girl school he went to, and Ryan was just thinking about women in general - though possibly Rob's girlfriend was high on the list.
Rob's girlfriend was also in the mind of Joe Bill when he swam 100m Backstroke, whilst Terry was likely smarting over his many injuries and thinking about revenge on that cone. Joe Banns finished the morning swims with a 400m Freestyle, smoothly going to 15m off the dive.
One of the most satisfying traditions of BUSA is the McDonalds meal before the last session. Of course, given the fragile nature of some stomachs, and the totally inadequate sustenance a Maccy D's provides, it may have not been the best decision from a nutritional point of view. Nevertheless, Team Swim colonised the area and munched away, before heading back to Ponds Forge, everyone with a McStomach.
In the finals, Abi placed 8th in the 100m Freestyle, before Sarah Westwood swam the 200m Medley final, coming 6th. Steph Hill took bronze in the 50m fly, before Sarah was up to race AGAIN in the 100m Back final. In what may well have been the best swim of the entire weekend, Sarah ignored the fact she'd just swam a gruelling 200m Medley to set a new club record and win bronze medal, coming home in 1:04.80. Even Andy Cowan momentarily stopped sharking to watch, although of course Sarah was dripping wet in a swimming costume at the time, so his motives for staring may have been slightly less than innocent.
Laura Bowden and Jill Nesbitt then stepped up for their 400m Freestyle final, coming home in 6th and 7th respectively. Mr. Tickle was up next, setting a new club record of 3:59.60 in the Men's event, coming 6th in a very fast race.
The last two races were the 200m Medley relays. First up were the ladies (Sarah Westwood, Jenny Salmon, Steph Hill and Abi Tetley). Sarah nearly broke the club record again for the backstroke leg, in her 10th BUSA swim and 3rd event in this finals session. Jenny continued the good work with a fine swim, before Steph bashed out a ferocious 27.88s to bring Manchester back into 3rd place: Abi delivering the goods to win Manchester a 5th medal in 2:00.93 - just 0.03s off the club record.
The final race saw a new-look Men's relay team compete in the B-final (Affif, Andy, Matt and Tommy), with good swims from all.
The Team then showed their thanks to Tim for all his hard work by throwing him in the pool - Tim shortly after disgracing himself again by dropping something rather personal on poolside. There can be no excuses, Tim.
After a fairly long minibus ride home, some members of the team met at the Cheshire Cat to try to prolong the magic in a pub quiz. The dark side of Mike Sharkey was revealed, and Andy tried to shark up several ladies. Physically, mentally, financially and emotionally tired, everyone went to bed: reports suggest the average team member slept for 12 hours.
Overall, Manchester had 23 Top 10 Finalists, 6 new club records, and 5 medals (1 gold and 4 bronze). The Women's team came 3rd, the Men 12th, meaning overall Manchester was 5th - just 2 points behind Nottingham in 4th, and a reasonable way ahead of Welsh National Performance Centre Swansea, who were 6th. The team won 52 BUSA Points.
We would like to thank Coach Tim Konowalik for all his efforts over the past years. His dedication, enthusiasm and dance moves are an inspiration to us all, hopefully this BUSA - his last as coach - was a fitting send-off.
Once again, Manchester proved to be formidable in the pool, whilst also having a fantastic weekend. The high-spirits and excellent atmosphere were down to the team all gelling together brilliantly, and you can be sure that 1) BUSA LC will be bigger, better and badder, and 2) Andy Cowan will forever be haunted by that megaphone.
BUSA Short-Course 2007 was brought to you by Team Swim:
And Coach Tim Konowalik.
Alumni members Lucy Lloyd-Roach, Marie Jones, Katie Loker, Catherine Bolsover, Gavin Hunter-Gatherer, James Murray, Matthew Moody and Graeme Smith all graced us with their presences.