Celebration time at the Hemel Hempstead SC Birthday Open

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First for sports news

Hemel Hempstead SC swimmers excelled at the club’s 101st annual Birthday Open meet – clocking 314 PBs, 112 top three finishes, 81 new or improved County Championship qualifying times and 21 new club records.

A team of 125 swimmers from Hemel were joined by swimmers from Banbury, Berkhamsted, Bourne End, Chesham, St Albans, Maxwell, Tring and Watford for a weekend of intense competition at Hemel Sportspace.

Hemel Hempstead MP Mike Penning visited the club for the start of session one and met the club’s new head coach Justin Langford, who has made great strides since taking up his post in mid-July.

Among many fine performances, special mention must be made of Clara Stancombe and Rachel Barber who both obtained their first ever county qualifying times.

There were also plenty of gold medallists, most of whom won more than one event – Aimee Abrey, Leanne Abrey, Izzy Anderton, Seyi Bankole, Jack Christie, Jonny Farrow, Josh Gaines, Emily Jelfs, Justin Langford, Jo Lee-Pearce, Bethany Masters, Lois Moore, Georgia Purkis, Matthew Rafiq-Craske, Grace Rayner, Tom Sherriff, Jack Spence and Paige Wilding.

Two very exciting skins competitions – where the fastest 50 freestylers at the meet compete over five knock-out rounds for cash prizes sponsored by Orchid Properties – were won by Abigail Green and Jack Pickford, both from Watford.

Watford also won the trophy for best visiting club, with CoSTA narrowly edging out Berkhamsted to take second place.

The club would like to thank all the volunteers from HHSC and visiting clubs who helped to run and officiate at the meet.

Meanwhile, the Hemel swimmers continued their promising early season form with a very strong showing in the first round of the National Arena League, finishing third on the night with 15 new club records and 25 top-three finishes.

A squad of 34 swimmers aged from 10 to adult were at the Luton Inspire swimming pool taking on strong competition from across the London region.

Individual wins went to Seyi Bankole, Charlie Rayner (2), Max Jelfs (2) and Grace Rayner, while second place individual swims were recorded by Lois Moore, Justin Langford, Aimee Abrey, Jack Spence, Tom Sherriff and Emily Jelfs.

Third places went to Freddie Woodcock (2), Eleanor Bevan and Lauren Windsor.

There were also some very strong relay performances, with the girls’ 12/13 age group of Alice Fender, Leanne Abrey, Eleanor Bevan and Megan Prince taking second place in the medley relay and third in the freestyle relay.

In the 12/13-year-old boys’ category, Max Jelfs, Charlie Rayner, Sam Gaines and Harrison Mills were dominant winners in the medley relay and took second in the freestyle relay.

In the ladies’ open relays, Paige Wilding, Molly McLoughlin, Aimee Abrey, Grace Rayner, Lois Moore and Emily Jelfs dominated the category to take first place in both the medley and freestyle relays.

With Hemel Hempstead sitting one point behind third placed Harlow before the final event of the evening – the men’s 6x50 open relay – Jack Christie, Justin Langford, Matt Sherriff, Freddie Woodcock, Jack Spence and Tom Sherriff had an exceptional swim, leading from the start.

Team-mates and supporters in the gallery went wild when they claimed first place in a close finish, edging out Harlow.

With the points levelled on the night, Hemel secured third place in front of Harlow on the tie breaker rule of having recorded more first places during the evening.

In addition, a stunning swim by 13-year-old Charlie Rayner in the 100m breastroke saw him take a massive four seconds off his PB to record a time of 1:11.60.

That was the fastest short course time for a 13-year-old boy in the country in the last 12 months – ranking Charlie as the best in Britain for his age category.