By Glen Byrom
HARARE, Zimbabwe, November 5. MATTHEW Lawson, 14, of Pirates Club, was again in scorching form in Friday's Mashonaland Swimming Gala, shattering his own 15 and under age group Zimbabwe record for the grueling 1500 meters by almost 20 seconds.
At the Les Brown Pool in Harare, Lawson devastated the field with his explosive style to clock 17:31.95 and eclipse the 17:51.70 he set in Bulawayo in February 2006, two years below the age limit as a 13-year-old. The St George's College boy will still swim in this age group until the end of 2008, so this and several other national records must be ranked as endangered species. His prospects for gold medals for Zimbabwe at the Junior All Africa Championships in Cairo early next month and at South Africa's Prestige age-group championships in East London next March must be high.
Two other Zimbabwe records were broken during the weekend by 10-year-old Leonardo "Chicco" Bescotti of Pirates and, that astonishing slip of a girl, 11-year-old Samantha Welch of Spartans.
Welch went from tears to triumph during the weekend. There were tears on Friday night when she missed her objective of South African Prestige qualifying times. Then, her notable achievement came during Sunday's Junior League Gala at Les Brown when she eclipsed yet another Kirsty Coventry record in the two lengths 66 yards girls 12-and-under butterfly. Olympic champion Coventry held the mark at this age at 42.41. "Super Sam" blazed to a 41.59 in her farewell appearance at the junior level – she turns 12 on Nov. 18 and will strive for even higher honors in the senior ranks.
Sharon schoolboy Bescotti, who turns 11 in February, on Friday night demonstrated his smooth style and shaved the national mark of 1:27.67 set by Johan Kloppers last year in the 100 meter backstroke with a new time of 1:27.29. He now holds two national marks having broken a record last month at the Mashonaland short course gala at Heritage School.
"It's great to see another young boy now setting records," said his coach Sue Bradshaw. "Federico's backstroke is exquisite. In the water, he looks like a fully developed backstroker and he's only 10."
Eleven of the 12 members of Zimbabwe's junior team for Egypt were in action on Friday night – Tara Wallace (13), Jessica Byrom, Tatenda Zinyemba and Nick James particularly tuning up impressively for those All Africa Championships.
Wallace, of Spartans Club and Chisipite Senior School, clinched a hat-trick by winning the 13-14 age group 100 meter butterfly (1:16.48), 100 meter backstroke (1:17.61) and 100 meter freestyle (1:05.13) – all personal bests.
Byrom, 13, also of Spartans and Chisipite, recorded her personal best of 39.29 in winning an exciting girls 13-14 year 50 meter breaststroke over perpetual rivals Amy Bond (39.51) and Syanne Graham (39.99). She was then just outside her personal best in dominating the 200 meter IM to win in 2:46.13 to show that this may be her key event in Cairo.
Zinyemba, 14, of Sharks Club, with his fast bobbing style, sliced more than three seconds off his personal best in winning the boys 13-14 year 200 meter IM in 2:46.64. Nick James (Pirates) was another to crack his personal best by more than two seconds, clocking 2:22.58 in the men's 17 and over 200 meter IM.
Spartans teammates Tarryn Rennie and Welch continued their close and exciting rivalry in the girl's 11-12 group. Rennie powered to the 100 meter freestyle in 1:07.80 ahead of Welch (1:08.82) in their only clash on Friday.
Also impressive on Friday was 12-year-old James Lawson (Pirates), who crushed the field by almost 30 seconds in the 11-12 group 100 meter breaststroke, notching a personal best of 1:23.51.
Note that all national records require official ratification from the Zimbabwe Aquatic Union.