A team of 10 Berkhamsted Swimming Club youngsters travelled to the University Of East Anglia to compete with distinction in the East Region U14 swimming championships.
First timers James Corner, George Thorne, Abbie Hurst, Izzie Soulsby, Ellen Northwood and Ish Rahim enjoyed racing alongside experienced campaigners Mason Brand, Charlotte Watson, Louis Armitage and James Chennells.
It was an excellent display from the Berkhamsted young guns, with the club recording PBs across the board, several club open bests and two fantastic gold medals for Hurst.
Head coach Geoff Wood said: “The local club really are on the up and showed that, given the right work ethic from the swimmers, the programme allows them to compete against the best in the region and even, in specific circumstances, at a national level.
“The 10 swimmers were a delight to have poolside for the three days and above all they all had a great deal of fun into the bargain.”
Hurst started the meet with a courageous 200 breaststroke where, despite physical discomfort she posted a 3-second improvement, clocking 3.00.33 to take the club record and place 10th and second reserve for the final. Her star moments then came on days 2 and 3.
In the 100 breast, seeded 7th she was anxious to qualify in a middle lane for the final and took her heat out fast, turning over 2 seconds ahead at 50m.
On the way back she began to fade a fraction but held on to take the heat win in a new long course PB and club record and made the final seeded second.
Showing no nerves she started the final much more steadily but came through to lead at 50m. Once off the final turn there was only ever going to be one winner as she took her lead out to 2m. Although closed down slightly towards the finish she improved yet again to 1.18.64 to lower the club best yet again as she claimed the gold medal to sit proudly in the top-25 nationally on current times.
With new found confidence she went into the 50 breast on the final day believing she would make the final and did so with a remarkable swim, coming through for second in her heat after a sluggish dive from the blocks.
In a short 50m sprint you cannot give away any advantage at all and in the final it all came right at once.
Her dive still left her with a little to do but, by 35m she had forged into a lead she was never to lose, finishing a massive (for a 50m sprint) 0.99 seconds ahead of second place for her second gold of the meet.
She wrapped up all 3 breaststroke club bests as well over the weekend, and her 35.64 50 time places her comfortably in the top-20 in Britain for her age as at the date of the swim.
Thorne and Corner swam the 50 free on Saturday afternoon with Corner improving yet again to go 31.23 whilst Thorne swam on his pb.
Armitage began his meet with a long course PB in 11/12 years 100 breast, posting a creditable 1.33.99.
Mason Brand is in his fourth year at these championships and despite not being at the top of his form, performed admirably and was a great role model for his younger team mates.
In his 100 breast he swam exactly to his pb of 1.24 before smashing through the 30 second barrier for the first time in his 50 free, touching the pads in 28.64 seconds.
Ellen Northwood was nervous for her first event, the 50 fly, but proved she had no need to be. With a good start and showing excellent underwater skills she blasted home in 32.44, lowering her month-old PB.
Ish Rahim has gone from strength to strength this year, allying better technique to obvious athletic talent. With four good strokes his first long course (50m pool) swim was in the 400m individual medley - one of the toughest races on the programme.
He showed no fear by leading the way at 100m after the fly leg. Holding his form on the back and breast he came back hard on the free leg for 3rd in his heat and 13th overall.
Chennells followed Rahim in the IM by leading his heat at halfway before slipping to 5th in the heat at the end and 11th overall with 5.30.50,
Brand and Chennells were back up for the 100 back with Brand just coming out on top in their club battle for supremacy with 1.11.76 against Chennells’ 1.12.96, although James improved on his seeding by placing 20th.
Charlotte Watson has had an injury-plagued year and is only just starting to come back to full fitness. Indeed, the meet was probably a month or so too early for her but she showed tremendous determination in her 200 back when lowering her 12-month long course best by over 4 seconds.
Day 2 saw Chennells start the day in sparkling form for the 400 free. With a definite race plan he started fast but controlled to turn just 6th at 50m.
He moved steadily through until at halfway he was solidly in 2nd place which he retained to touch home in 4.46.60 for 7th overall in his age group - his best ever finish.
Northwood was next up in the 200 Fly and showed her definite ability by posting the 12th fastest time of 2.52.16 and, once again improving on her very recent PB.
In his 200 IM Mason suffered on the third 50 but clocked 2.40.57 having earlier clocked a long course PB by over three seconds for his 50 fly and third in his heat; his 30.17 was a massive chunk off his PB. His final race of day 2 was the 100 free where he went 1.05.61.
Rahim matured quickly over the 3 days and was a heat before Brand in the 50 Fly. He attacked from the gun to pinch 2nd in his heat on the touch and make the final in 8th place.
The final saw him improve yet again, hitting the pads in 31.48 for 8th place and a top-50 place in England.
Watson took on two events in day 2, beginning with the 100 back where she swam very fast to 50, but a lack of training through injury caught up in the 2nd half of the heat and the watches clicked at 1.13.10.
Almost immediately, though, she was back up for the 50 Free and, showing the resilience formed by previous hours of hard work, swept inside 30 seconds long course for the first time in 29.66. Another 8th qualifier, a place she consolidated in the final, going sub 30 again.
James Chennells thrives on hard work and in his 200 Back he was bold off the start and attacked straight away. He turned in 1.13 and finished in 2.31.01 for another all course PB and club record to make his own final in 8th. He repeated the swim almost exactly in the final to claim another 8th place for the club.
The 3rd and final day began with Izzie Soulsby powering through her 800m free race. Having never done an 800 long course before she managed to lower her 800 all course time by over 3 seconds, improving her place to 12th from a 14th seeding in a swim long on technique and comfort.
Her time of 10.49.03 showed immense innate ability and her 400m time was a club record in its own right.
Watson was seeded 12th for the 50 back and once more improved on her seeding finishing equal 10th with 2 other swimmers in what was, possibly her best swim of the meet.
Mason Brand followed up with the first of 3 swims in the session, the 100 back and, whilst slightly shy of his pb, showed renewed vigour in his attack on the swim, improving from 17th seed to another 10th place. His 100 fly was next with 14th and he finished on his 50 breast with a 4-second PB and 11th overall.
Rahim was also in the 100 fly and placed 2nd in his heat with 1.12.29 (an all course PB) to scrape into the final in 8th place.
In the final itself he was more conservative on the first 50m and, with great skills off start and turn, he enabled himself to improve by over a second again and move up to 7th overall to cap a super first Regional Champs for the 13-year-old.
Northwood finished her meet with yet another PB in the 100 fly which got her into the club’s 7th final of the series in 8th place - their best ever haul - posting 1.12.67.
Then, showing increased maturity, she repeated the feat in the final to lower yet another PB with 1.12.50 for 8th overall.
Soulsby had her second and final swim in the 50 breast and went in only 16th fastest. Seeded slowest in her heat she really went for it and posted a time of 40.32 to clinch third in the heat and move up to 11th overall.
The final heat swim came from Louis Armitage whose 14th in the 50 breast was a welcome return to sprinting form for the youngster just 0.02 seconds shy of his PB.