Arena League Round 1 Oct 18

Berkhamsted SC were back in National League action at the weekend. A year after relegation to Division 2 of the London League the visit to Southbury Rd pool in Enfield was viewed with some trepidation as a number of normally first choice swimmers were unavailable for the toughest assignment of the year in the Club’s League programme. However the coaching team need not have worried as the squad pulled together in the ‘It's All About the Team’ way that they are known for and every swimmer surpassed expectations on an exciting night. In the final analysis the 36 swimmers who competed claimed 9 first places, 8 seconds and 8 thirds from the 50 events. After a close fight all night with near neighbours Stevenage it came down to the final relay to decide which club finished 2nd behind runaway leaders Swiss Cottage with just one point separating the two clubs.


The night began with Ellen Northwood having to, unexpectedly swim the Open 200m IM and, as usual she stood up and raced hard to her fastest time in the last 18 months (2:43.02 & a County Consideration time) to be followed by Zac Patel who led after the fly leg and posted his 2nd best ever time of 2:20.17, slotting him into the County Champs in 2019. Both are part of the Club Captaincy team and led off by example.

The Under 11 Girls & boys Free relay teams both came 3rd (Ruby Liddle, Phoebe Goss, Lara Connell & Eva Lawson, Lawson Gray, William Barnes, Cole Moore & Eric Batt  –  all first timers in Arena League ) clocking 2:22.20 and 2:30.82 respectively.

For the 12/13 Girls Medley team, Emma Hockney led off in a 50m backstroke pb of 40.34, followed by Tamsin Moren on Breast, Lara Coster on fly and Abbie Briers on Free as they stormed to 2nd place in 2:26.65. The boys, Alex Kalverboer, George Gray, Pierce Philbin & David Graham rocked home in 2:34.358 for 5th place, fighting hard to maintain their position throughout.

The 14/15 Girls Free team brought home the first win of the night. After a superb pb lead off 50m from Abi Hewson (29.26) Vicky Ayles, Evie Watson and a flying Issy Soulsby brought the team home in 2:02.47 to win by a second. The boys, George Thorne, late additions due to injuries to others Omar & Yazeed Swarray-Deen came home 5th in 1:57.62 and in the final two relays from the first part of the meet, the Open 200 Medley squads of Izzy Sansom, Molly Baker, masters swimmer Tracy Van Deventer and Caitlin Kelley for the women and Ish Rahim, Harry Thorne, Patel & Callum Bullock posted 2:32.86 and 2:00.88 respectively.

The individual events resumed and saw William Barnes lower his 50m back by 2 seconds to 48.20 and then Tamsin Moren claimed the first individual win of the night. In the 12/13 100m Breast she led from the start and had to fight hard in the final 25m to clock 1:23.94 (her fastest this year) and lower her County Qualification time in the process.

Alex Kalverboer (County Consideration) and Abi Hewson (County Qualifying) in the 12/13 100 Breast and 14/15 100 Back both set pb times as well of 1:30.35 and 1:10.36, with Abi Hewson looking mightily impressive winning her heat by 4 seconds.

George Thorne dropped his 100m back time to 1:10.11 and 3rd place but injured his hand in the process.

Ellen Northwood claimed a County Consideration time in 1:14.01 for the Open Fly in 4th as the Club’s ability at fly was then reinforced with Rahim winning his Open Fly in 1:01.81, leading from gun to pad. Eva Lawson took 2nd in her 10/11 fly with a typically feisty 40.08 and Lawson Gray lowered his week old pb in the fly to 42.56.

Lara Coster does not race regularly but her 1:23.77 100m Back in the 12/13 girls shows she should do so as she improved by over 8 seconds & then Alex Kalverboer picked up 3rd in the boy’s category as well (1:18.90).

Issy Soulsby was unlucky to be a DNF in her 100m Fly when, after leading for 95m she swallowed water and choked, having to stop in distress on course for what would have been a good 4 second improvement and then Yazeed Swarray-Deen stepped in to swim the 100m Fly for the first time ever replacing the injured George Thorne, finishing to a big round of applause.

Izzy Sansom was just a second off her 100m back best showing well honed skills around the wall and Owen Strakosch completed another 18 month best in the boys Open back with 1:10.46.

Lara Connell’s good night continued as she chopped a massive 6 seconds from her 50m Breast best time in 48.80 and Cole Moore delivered a 3 second improvement in his breast with 52.58.

The next pb was from Tom Holmes-Higgin who has refound his Fly stroke over the longer distances posting 1:26.85 before Issy Soulsby put her fly disappointment behind her by smashing out a 100m free pb. Her aggressive swim lowered her best to 1:04.32 and a consideration time for County Champs in January, hitting the touch pads some 2 seconds ahead of her field. She was followed immediately by another win for the club courtesy of Dan Chennells in the Boys Open Free with 58.39, easing down as he was well clear in the last 25m.

13-year-old Tamsin Moren stepped into the Open 100m Breast and almost exactly repeated her time from the age group race, clocking 1:24.10 to place 3rd against much older swimmers.

Eva Lawson had something in hand in the 10/11 50m Free winning in 33.96 and Eric Batt took 3rd in the boys' race.

Abigail Briers was also 3rd in the 12/13 100m Free and David Graham 4th for the boys but smashed his own pb nearly 5 seconds, clocking 1:11.02.

Evie Watson, swimming in her first competition for nearly 2 years showed why she has been missed, leading her 14/15 Breaststroke for the first 75m before coming home 8 seconds faster than she had ever swum before in 1:26.55 and a first County Consideration time on her comeback trail. She was followed by Dan Chennells in an unfamiliar role as a breaststroker but, again, he lowered his pb by nearly 9 seconds to come home in a surprising but very valuable 2nd place.

Ish Rahim provided himself with another, comfortable County Qualification in the final individual event of the night, the Male Open 100m Free, just pipped at the end in a fine 57.97.

Onto the second round of relays and 9/11 girl’s squad backed up their 3rd in the Free relay with 4th in the Medley posting 2:57.07, while the boys stepped up a spot taking 2nd in 2:59.62.

The 12/13 Girls all stepped up to the plate as they placed Abbie briers in on the anchor with still a bit to do to try to go one better than their Medley 3rd place. She did not disappoint, slamming down the final 25m to a rising crescendo of noise and taking the win in the last 5m in a split of 31.39.

The 14/15 Girls made it a relay double for them with Victoria Ayles anchoring them home in the Medley relay to a clear water victory after another lead off pb from Abi Hewson on her back leg and very solid breast and fly swims from Evie Watson and Issy Soulsby.

The climax of the evening is always the 6 x 50 Open free relays, fast and furious all the way. The girls led out and as the final Boys event loomed, the team were in 3rd place just one point behind long term rivals on the night, Stevenage. Zac Patel led off in 26.49, Owen Strakosch went faster than ever before with 28.04, Callum Bullock repeated that feat with a 28.54, Ish Rahim clocked a 26.52 leg and then Harry Thorne 27.27, again his fastest ever, handed over to Dan Chennells for the glory leg and with a 26.48 he anchored them home to 2nd in the race and overall 2nd by just 4 points to climax an extraordinary evening of effort by all the athletes.

As the race season gets into full swing the club showed they have the athletes to step into the breach when needed and the team spirit (#itsallabouttheteam) to overcome obstacles, supporting each other over all the obstacles.

Geoff Wood

Head Coach

Berkhamsted SC