SWIMMING: LIKE-for-like Winsford Swimming Club is now neck-and-neck with the best clubs in the region - and that's official.
In recent years the club has forged ahead in terms of results and medals, attracting ambitious swimmers from across Mid Cheshire and beyond.
As with Vale Royal Athletics Club it is now producing athletes who can compete at higher and higher levels without leaving their local club.
Winsford has made huge advances, not in coaching and performance, but in all other targets set by the ASA and the Sports Council.
On Wednesday, it was presented with the Clubmark award and the ASA's own Swim21 silver certificate, which confirms its reputation as a club on the up.
It has about 400 members, 100 of which race. The club used to tread water until about 10 years ago when it took a conscious decision to follow a competitive route and appointed a professional coach in Don Bailey.
He was part-time and was succeeded by Dave Petengell, who is full time and a national standard coach.
Better and better results culminated in the club's greatest individual achievement so far when Cuddington's Abi Tetley contested the Commonwealth Games trials this year.
In years past, promising young swimmers in Mid Cheshire had been forced to travel to Chester or
Manchester twice a day, every day to get a higher standard of coaching and extra pool time.
'Swimmers now have an easy access to a high level of coaching without having to travel halfway across the county every day,' said chairman Barry Keeling.
The strain on swimmers and their families was enormous and all quit long before achieving their ambitions.
But Winsford's police and the advent of the Vale Royal Performance Group based at Sir John Deane's College changed all that and Keeling sees the time when a higher elite group could be formed for Mid and South Cheshire clubs.
Winsford is recognised as a competitive development club because it regularly produces national age group swimmers and county-standard swimmers.
A child's first taste of competition is in the Deva League moving up to the Speedo League and beyond.
A competitive development club is a step down from being a performance club, which sends the end products into international waters.
Keeling said: 'We have kids who are on the edge of national level swimming who were here as six and seven-year-olds.
'Our belief is that every youngster should have the chance to be a national swimmer and we are now in a position where we can offer support to other clubs and help to develop their swimmers.
'We have nearly 19 hours of pool time and we need to work with the Northwich club to get more time and better use of it.
'You can never have enough but we under-stand the constraints and we cannot become a performance club until we have access to a 50m pool. It might never be achieved.
'There are some kids who would benefit from going to a performance club like Stockport Metro, who do have a 50m pool, and some who would benefit from coming here where there are fewer kids and a better ratio per coach. Some thrive in that environment
'And it is not just about swimming, it is about the development of individuals, too.'
Under Swim21, the ASA will continue to assess Winsford in other activities such as teaching, lifesaving and open water swimming.
Peers Martin, director of the new ASA regional organisation Swim North West, said Swim21 was aimed at restructuring sport for the 21st Century with an emphasis on clubs forging partnerships with other clubs.
He said: 'The ASA wants to see clubs working well together. It isn't just about medals, it is about personal goals as well.
'Swimming is also a great way to get kids into sport. But we want them to start, stay and succeed.'