Hemel Hempstead SC held their nerve to finish second in an amazing Arena League night in east London.
Halfway through the competition Hemel lay joint second, with only 18 points separating second from sixth. In the end Hemel stayed second, a place above their pre-competition seeding, and only nine points behind first.
The team has improved in each of the three rounds of this year’s competition, for which credit must go to the coaching team as well as the swimmers.
This round was the third fastest aggregate time posted by a Hemel team in the competition ever. There were four first places but the result was more a tribute to consistency with 16 second and third places. There were no fewer than 23 individual or relay lead leg PB’s, a number of them significant improvements.
There were ten new or improved Regional QTs, one Club open record, four Club age group records and three Club competition records. So much of the tone of the competition is set by the opening 200 IM races, and despite swimming up an age group both Alice Fender and Sam Gaines got us off to a great start, setting PBs and new age group records.
First places were achieved by the girls u16 free relay team of Shona McKenna (setting a new age group record for the 50 free in the lead leg), Izzy Anderton, Georgia Purkis and Alice Fender. Jack Spence was in imperious form winning both the open 100 back and free, whilst Jack Christie won the open 100 breast in a new Club open record time. Joe Coldwell improved his 100 breast age group record.
The boys u16 free relay team of Sam Gaines, Jonny Farrow, Cameron Clark and Ashley Coombs came second, setting a new club competition record. Other second places were achieved by the girls u12 relay squad in both their free and medley events (Grace Cawley, Holly Robinson, Freya Goad and Elizabeth Kelly), and in their individual events by Holly Robinson (50 back), Mattias Morse (100 breast), Sam Gaines (100 fly), Keelin McKenna (100 back), Elizabeth Kelly (50 breast), Henry Newbury-Kemp (50 breast), Alice Fender (100 free) and Ashley Coombs (100 free and a new Club competition record).
Third places were achieved by Alice Fender (200 IM), Millie Herbert (100 breast), Mattias Morse (100 fly with a massive 3.7 second PB), Holly Robinson (50 free), and the girls open freestyle relay team (Rebecca Sewell, Paige Wilding, Kira Doyle, Shona McKenna, Keelin McKenna and Alice Fender).
The biggest single improvement on the night was set by Kyle Holmes with a huge 4 second PB in the 100 fly. Millie Herbert improved both her 100 fly and 50 free relay lead leg by over 2 seconds. Tilly Beckwith knocked nearly 2 seconds off her 50 back PB in the medley relay and is now swimming at Regional qualifier pace and also improved her 100 free by 1.7 seconds - earlier in the week she wasn’t feeling well and was a doubtful starter so we look for great things when she is fully fit!
Shona McKenna improved her 100 back time by almost two seconds, Sam Ward improved his 100 back time by 1.75 seconds, Lewis Clark improved his 100 free by 1.4 seconds and Henry Newbury-Kemp improved his 50 breast by a second. Overall ten regional qualifying times were set or improved.
Special mentions must be made of Nathan Whiting who wasn’t feeling at all well on Saturday morning but still turned up and swam two individual and two relay races, to Mason O’Brien and Chris Cox who stepped in at incredibly short notice when there were drop outs on the day, to Leanne Abrey who swam the 100 fly in both her age group and the open within ten minutes, and then the 50 fly leg in the medley relay. And the team’s success wouldn’t have been possible without the sterling efforts of Millie Anderton, Dylan Kennell, Niall Marsden and Emily Young.
Congratulations to Head Coach Oliver for a successful first season of Arena League and thanks to the support team of Lauren Wilding, Alan Coldwell, Monica Fender (on her birthday), George Cawley and Hayley McKenna. And finally to Vic Coombs and Sarah Young who were the unsung heroes who officiated and allowed us to meet our obligations to the league, and to everyone who has helped and supported the team this season.