Rahim sparkles during a busy weekend of action for Berkhamsted Swimming Club

Berkhamsted SC competed at the Hemel Hempstead SC Birthday Open
Berkhamsted SC competed at the Hemel Hempstead SC Birthday Open

It was another busy weekend for Berkhamsted Swimming Club, beginning with Ish Rahim travelling to Sheffield as part of the Herts ASA National Inter County Squad and then a block of swimmers competing locally at the Hemel Hempstead Birthday Open.

First, Rahim lowered his 100m backstroke time by almost a second to 1.09.55 and then helped the Herts medley relay 12/13 team to fifth place – leading off with another PB in his 50 back and lowering his best by over a second to 31.62.

The Herts team finished eighth overall, moving them back into the national top 10 for the first time in a few years.

Meanwhile at the Hemel Hempstead Birthday Open, the Saturday sessions began with second and third in their heats for Amy Stoker and Izzy Sansom respectively in the 400 free.

In the 100 IM, Owen Strakosch’s recent run of PBs continued, before George Thorne crept inside the county qualifying time and Callum Bullock improved his own CQT with 1.18.49.

Thorne’s brother Harry repeated the feat, as did Zac Patel and Ollie Hurst, who both picked up silver medals - with Hurst setting a club age group record as well.

In the girls’ 100 free Abi Hewson swept to her own club best, slicing 19 seconds from her PB and making it another CQT and third place, before 17-year-old Eli MacDonald showed her typical determination to chip away at her own PB, down to 1.04.63 and the bronze medal.

The boys’ 50 fly saw yet another PB for Strakosch, and bronze for 10-year-old Tom Holmes-Higgin. The Bullock brothers both went PB, with Callum just outstripping Harrison with 35.96 (CQT) to Harrison’s 36.82.

Then George Thorne continued to rack up swims inside the notional CQT and brother Harry went PB as well. Possibly the best of the 50 flys came from Patel, who hit the pads almost 1.2 seconds inside his old best to take the gold and also inside the CQT.

Onto the girls’ 50 breast and improved placings as the heats went on. Lara Coster took sixth in a PB, Hewson 4th (pb), Rachel Barber, 3rd, MacDonald silver, pb and CQT and then Abbie Hurst topped it off by winning gold over a second clear of her field and three seconds inside the CQT.

The boys then took on the 200 breast and Holmes-Higgin went 3s quicker, Callum Bullock a 1s PB for silver and then Harry Thorne smashed his PB by 15 seconds, going sub-3 minutes for the first time and a CQT for silver.

16-year-old Ollie Hurst felt like an elder statesman amongst his younger team-mates but cruised home to win his own gold by 10 seconds.

Harrison Bullock and Adam Hawkswood both improved in the 200 free, with masters swimmer Mark Strakosch making a rare foray into open meets to take open bronze in a shade outside his PB.

Zac Patel turned the form book upside down again to take gold in his own 200 free age group, taking over 11 seconds off his previous best.

The girls’ 50 free saw Sophie Eastham and Lydia Wisely enjoy some of their first open meet efforts, Izzy Sansom went close to her best, Hewson went PB for silver (CQT) as did Barber (also silver and CQT) with MacDonald grabbing yet another CQT and bronze.

Hawkswood’s PB run continued in the 50 Back by over a second, followed by Callum Bullock getting a CQT and PB with 35.83.

Tom Lyons’ first race of the day resulted in a gold and PB (32.91) and then Patel obliterated yet another of his PBs for silver with 32.97 (CQT).

Eli MacDonald swam to a gold and CQT in the girls’ 100 fly.

Patel had to settle for silver in the boys’ 100 breast but showed he now has four strong strokes with his PB and CQT. Lyons took gold (PB) by just over half a second, while Callum Bullock also went PB in his 100 breast.

Abi Hewson is a changed swimmer this competitive season and, in a tightly contested leaderboard, improved 17 seconds for another club best and CQT for gold in the 100 back. Barber also took time off her best when claiming gold.

The final event on Saturday showed how strong the swimmers are with Patel (PB and CQT) and Lyons (PB) taking gold, and Hawkswood posting 2.45.29 (bronze) as they all improved in their 200 IM.

Sunday dawned and the PBs continued to flow. In the boys’ 400 free, Holmes-Higgin, Harrison Bullock and Patel knocked a combined 70 seconds off their previous best times, with Tom taking silver, Harrison fourth and Patel the gold.

In the 100 IM, Tamsin Moren proved she has recovered from serious viral illness by winning her heat and creeping inside the CQT (PB) with 1.36.21.

Izzie Painter won her heat and improved 7 seconds, whilst Hewson also won her heat by a street (PB, CQT, silver) with 1.21.39. But, it was left to Abbie Hurst to show how it should be done with a 9 second winning margin (PB & CQT) for gold in 1.13.09.

Ollie Painter is new to open meets as a 9-year-old but took to it like a duck to water, tearing his 100 free PB apart by 14 seconds to take gold in 1.30.31.

Holmes-Higgin set a PB, Cam MacDonald ripped up his PB by 7 seconds (1.10.38) storming home to win his heat and then the Bullock brothers, in the same heat, set PBs with Harrison just coming out on top on this occasion.

Ollie Hurst is regularly inside the minute for 100 free (59.82) these days and Patel is rapidly closing in, dropping his best to 1.03.35 for silver and CQT, winning his heat by about 8 seconds.

The girls’ 50 fly saw Izzie Painter reverse the placing with Hewson from the IM,coming out with the bronze medal (sub 40 for the first time) to Hewson’s fifth place.

Ollie Painter got the 50 breast off to a good start by setting a 3 second best followed by Patel (silver) slipping inside 40 seconds with 39.03 and then Ollie Hurst suffering a rare 50 breast defeat, taking second in 33.62 but still inside the CQT.

During the boys’ 50 breast the crowd and swimmers were treated to a superb demonstration of swimming by Putteridge’s Laurence Palmer, posting the second-fastest time in the UK this year with 26.85.

The girls were next up again with 200 breast. Moren gritted it out to go 6 second PB and just inside the CQT for silver.

Kiernan chopped nine seconds from her best time and then Abbie Hurst lowered the club record by 8 seconds and her own PB, chasing home the fastest swimmer on the day, to take age group gold with 2.51.49 to go top 10 in the region.

Cam MacDonald chased home Harrison Bullock in the 200 back, improving by 8 seconds, and then Patel pocketed another silver as he coasted the first sic lengths and raised his game in the last 50 to improve by 3 seconds.

Coming back after lunch, Harrison Bullock was delighted to pick up the gold in the 200 fly, putting up a 6 second PB and, for the first time, a 200 fly CQT,

Grace Payne came to the party in the 200 free lopping some 14 seconds off for fourth place.

Ollie Painter capped a terrific meet for him personally, with another gold in the 50 free, Holmes-Higgin improved to 37.57 and Cam MacDonald impressed by dropping almost three seconds to storm his heat in 31.55 - a seriously quick swim.

The Girls’ 50 back pitched Eastham back in and she went 2 seconds quicker in 54.04, Moren grabbed bronze in 43.81 (PB) and Lotte Priestley joined in with her first race and a really smooth swim to carve off 1.2 seconds with 42.01.

11-year-old Izzie Painter made the officials look twice when she surfaced after using nearly all of the allowable 15m underwater at the start. Showing great skills she popped out a 1.5 second best for bronze (39.42).

Kiernan won her heat, with Sansom third in the same heat, and then Abbie Hurst turned up the wick with an effortless 34.24 (PB & CQT) to take yet another gold.

Following his brother’s butterfly lead, Callum Bullock swam the 100 fly and ended with the bronze medal and a small PB.

Moren (silver) and Kiernan (bronze) began the girls’ 100 breast, leaving Abbie Hurst to romp home victorious by over six seconds in the 14 years age group. Her 1.16.85 puts her top-3 in the region and was both a CQT and another club best for the talented youngster.

In the final event of the weekend, Payne sliced off another nine seconds from her 200 IM, stopping the clock on 3.45.52 for fourth, with Moren and Priestley both claiming bronze.

It had been a tiring but, ultimately, immensely successful two days for all the swimmers.