The new season of the National League arrived with a bang for Berkhamsted Swimming Club at the Inspire Pool complex in Luton.
With 11 athletes ready for the Winter Regional Championships at the same pool at the start of November, the club’s strength in depth was severely tested on Saturday night due to withdrawals.
However, all the replacements swam well enough to put themselves in pole position for the next round with a placing of seventh on the night.
The meet began with 14-year-old Ellen Northwood stepping up to the open 200 IM and being well in the mix after her favourite fly leg. She was followed by the first PB of the night from brother Jordan who posted 2.17.96 for a club age group and open best time.
The youngest age group (9-11 years) was hit with heavy withdrawals but the free relay squads performed admirably with Emma Walker, Isabella MacDonald, Grace Payne and Abi Hewson claiming sixth.
David Graham, Finn Ferguson, Sam Baker and Tom Holmes-Higgins stepped up for the boys, all of whom will still be eligible for the same age group next year.
Roisin Clarke’s season has started with a bang and she led off the U14 girls’ medley relay with a backstroke PB of 36.04, backed up by Amelie Baker, Izzie Soulsby and Izzy Sansom. Then 12-year-olds George Thorne, Louis Armitage and James Corner supported stalwart Ish Rahim to take third place for the boys.
The 4x50 free relay for the U16 girls saw Amy Pemberton, Jess Potts and Charlotte Watson all inside 30 seconds for their legs, with Ellen Northwood posting 30.49. They lowered the U16 and open club best performances to 1.56.86.
The girls were immediately followed by the boys’ U16 squad of Jamie Hoyes, Mason Brand, Tom Weston and Chris Nel who set age group and club bests in a time of 1.44.53, with Nel just holding off a Harrow swimmer to post the club’s first win of the night.
Hoyes’ lead off had also reduced Nel’s previous club best for the 50 free to 25.33.
Yazii Brand lowered the 50 back club record as she led off the open medley, with Harriet Collinge, Eli MacDonald and Jenny Atwill making up the rest of the team.
Then the open boys’ squad saw Tom Strakosch inside 30s for the first time in the 50 back, followed by Ollie Hurst, Tom Lyons and Northwood for yet another club relay best of 1.56.30.
Back to the individual races and Abi Hewson surpassed herself with two PBs; firstly in her 50 back (club best) and then the 50 fly where she was inside 40 seconds for the first time. Tom Holmes-Higgin chopped over a second from his 50 back.
Izzie Soulsby and Louis Armitage both dropped their 100 breast times, with Armitage making his a club age group record.
Then Charlotte Watson claimed second in the U16 back with a PB of 1.09.55 which was the first of two swims she made inside her own club best on the night.
Clarke, yet again, improved her 100 back to 1.16.89, followed by Rahim in second in 1.10.54 (PB).
Ellen Northwood showed her resilience by taking third in her own age group fly and Hoyes came home strongly in the 100 fly to post a PB of 1.03.94 for second place.
Strakosch continued in the 100 back by lowering his best to 1.04.17 for fifth place.
Walker set her own 50 breast PB at 47.40 before Rahim led from the start in his 100 fly, stopping the clock in 1.08.33 with a winning margin of nearly six seconds.
Pemberton is another on fire at the moment, and she twice swam inside her 100 free club best, setting new figures of 1.01.25 for third in the U16 race, followed by Nel also taking third in the boys’ event.
Newcomer David Graham set a PB in his 50 free and then Corner also improved another club best, taking Armitage’s figures down to 1.08.21 in the U13 100m.
Jordan Northwood then continued the downward trend in freestyle times by coming home in 56.33 and slicing 1.2s from the previous 16 years club record.
Brother and sister Ollie and Abbie Hurst improved their own club best times for the 100 breast.
The final set of relays saw the youngest swimmers struggle against fatigue, but the U15 girls – with Hurst replacing Potts from the free squad – once again set club age group and open records with 2.09.79 for third in their medley relay. The boys placed second in their version of the race.
The final races of the league programme are the 6x50 open free events. In both the female and male races, Berkhamsted finished fourth in club best times of 2.55.79 and 2.37.87 – the club record times improving by over two seconds in each case.
Coach’s awards for swimmers of the night went to Atwill and Strakosch.