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Looking back on the history of the Interhouse Swimming Carnival

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The Swimming Carnival is one of the highlights of the School calendar and throughout the years, has become a hotly contested competition between the Houses.

Next week’s Interhouse Swimming Carnival is the 49th event with the inaugural Carnival first being held on March 29, 1972 at the Collie Pool.

The 1972 Bonifacian tells us:

“The entire school population travelled to Collie and there was plenty of spirit and enthusiasm evident from all quarters.”

The winners of this first Swimming Carnival were Goldsmith, who triumphed over Knight by just two points.

Subsequent early Interhouse Swimming Carnivals were held at the “Bunbury Swimming Pool”, also known in 1973 as the Bunbury Aquatic Centre, an outdoor pool that was almost invariably hot with a lack of shade. Dr and Mrs Harkness donated a trophy to the event in 1973, inscribed as the Harkness Trophy, which is stored in the School Archives today. Goldsmith won again in the second year of the carnival, but a different winning streak was about to appear.

John Clarke recalls:

“In the 70s Wilson was the dominant House in swimming. Because the School was small, one or two families of swimmers could dominate competition for a number of years. The Gollans and Veales were dominant for Wilson, and later it was the Levis for Knight (Knight became the power in swimming throughout the 80s and 90s.) As the Swimming Carnival was a whole School event, a family could stamp its superiority from earliest Primary days.

The Carnival was keenly fought, and audience involvement was much greater than for athletics and cross country, because only one event was contested at a time and spectators were restricted to a confined space.”

Dedicated events for Primary appeared from early on in Interhouse Swimming Carnival history, with games like water piggyback races and diving for cents. House mascots began to emerge, including “a psychedelic worm fifteen feet long” from Redding. Long distance events like the 200m freestyle were introduced from 1975, and the carnival maintained its tradition of awarding Champion Boy and Girl swimmers separately from House achievement throughout this time.

At the 2021 Secondary School Carnival, a new tradition is being established with the inaugural ‘Legends Relay’. Past greats, staff, parents and the current Year 12 team will race in a 4 x 50m freestyle relay event.

For this year, spectators will be watching not only the House winner of the Swimming Carnival but also for the first champions of the ‘Legends Relay’.

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