Among the photographs of students hanging up in the Matthew Flinders Hall at Thomas Cowley High School, Donington, is one of swimmer Charlize Arundell (14).
The Wyberton teenager won an Outstanding Student prize at the school’s end-of-term awards evening in July 2013, not least for her exploits during the annual sports day when a number of school records were broken.
Charlize, who now attends Middlecott School Kirton, is currently ranked in the top ten for her age group across the East Midlands at 50m, 100m and 200m breaststroke for both short (25m) and long course distances.
“I was quite active as a child and couldn’t sit down without doing something,” Charlize said.
“To me, it was boring to watch sport on TV so my dad taught me how to swim when I was aged about six.
“I used to swim as part of a group before I quit for a while to go to ballet dancing classes.
“But I hated it because, to me, it was boring so I started swimming again when I was nine.
“I wanted something to do that would keep me fit but at that time, I only went swimming for a bit of fun.”
The sport became serious for Charlize when she found out that she could enter competitions from the age of nine and after joining Boston Amateur Swimming Club (ASC) about five years ago, the races, wins and certificates started to come very quickly.
Charlize said: “I went to a primary school that was really sporty (Tower Road Primary School, Boston) and the teachers there gave out a lot of certificates, depending on how far you could swim.
“When I was in Years 5 and 6, I swam in competitions for the school which was amazing because there were 700 kids who used to shout out my name.
“I started to improve when I moved to Thomas Cowley High School where I was really fit, so I did cross country running and swimming.”
An early experience for Charlize of making the headlines came in November 2009 when she represented Boston ASC as a nine-year-old at the finals of the Fenland League Swimming League in Suffolk.
Held at Anglia Community Leisure Centre, Newmarket, Charlize won a 50m backstroke race, helping her club to finish second on the night and 13th overall in the league.
“When I was in Year 8 at Thomas Cowley, my coach said that I had potential and I went to a swimming camp with Mel Marshall who told me that I could go all the way if I trained hard, had the right coaching and joined a top club.”
Mel Marshall, who retired from swimming in 2008, holds the record for the most medals won by a UK woman athlete at a single Commonwealth Games, carrying home six from the 2006 Games in Melbourne.
A mentor and confidante for Charlize, Mel runs her own swimming camps in addition to head coach at City of Derby Swimming Club where helped another breaststroke swimmer, Adam Peaty, to win seven Commonwealth and European medals this year.
Charlize said: “I started swimming for Lincolnshire when I was in Year 8 and it was then that I started thinking ‘this is what I want to do.’
“From then, I started winning races at county level and in 2011, I went to the Midlands Swimming Championships where I came second in the 100m breaststroke and third in the 200m breaststroke.
“I was also invited to a two-day swimming camp in Sheffield where I met Ross Davenport (double gold medallist at the 2006 Commonwealth Games) and Michael Phelps (the most successful Olympian ever with 22 medals, including 18 golds).
“We had to do training sessions on butterfly stroke technique, but Phelps was brilliant when he came down and the camp helped me to go on to swim at national championships.”
After winning gold in the 50m breaststroke at the 2011 Lincolnshire Swimming Championships, Charlize won five golds at her club’s summer championships and in January 2012, she set a Midlands qualifying time in the short course 100m breaststroke.
Later in 2012, Charlize was excelling in athletics as well by winning high jump gold at the South Lincolnshire Inter-Schools Track and Field Championships in Boston.
“Even though I was good at it, I never thought of taking up athletics as a sport and when I started swimming for the county, I decided that I wanted to see how far I could go in the sport.
“One of the best events for me was at an event in Northamptonshire in January 2012 where I set a Midlands qualifying time and personal best in the 100m breaststroke.
“Now I train for about seven hours week at Boston swimming pool and I do my own exercise, but I want to take my swimming further that it is now so that I can be talented spotted by someone.”
Charlize is currently in training for the Midlands Short Course Swimming Championships in December and her club’s open meeting in January.
In the future, the teenager has dreams of continuing her studies at Plymouth College where one of the students is Lithuanian swimming sensation Ruta Meilutyte.
She is only 17 but already Ruta has complted the aquatic grand slam of Olympic, Youth Olympic, World Senior and Junior, World Cup, European Senior and Youth championships in both short and long courses in the 50m breaststroke.
The Lithuanian has also broken at least three world records, all under the college’s director of coaching Jon Rudd.
Charlize said: “I like swimming and when the Olympics are on, I watch the races because I want to try and better the swimmers taking part.
“My mum takes me to the competitions and my dad supports me when I need some help. Swimming is my number one priority and eventually, I want to swim at the Commonwealth Games.”