The second round of Herts League was always going to be a tough assignment for both of Berkhamsted SC’s teams, with illness, injury and unavailability seriously compromising the strength of both squads.
In the event, however, all those who competed performed above the call of duty and produced some excellent results.
The A team finished in fourth place in the Borehamwood gala and the B team took fifth at Stevenage.
Both teams had a number of swimmers who have not competed at this level before and, in some cases, the Berkhamsted youngsters were having to swim up the age groups – especially in the relays.
For the A team, Reece Marchant was the first newcomer in the water and he set a PB of 49.48 for the U12 50 back following a similar PB from Emma Walker of 41.59.
Ellen Northwood showed glimpses of her power and form in the U16 fly, posting 1:11.31 for second, and that was followed by a big win for the club as Jamie Hoyes went out hard in his fly and had enough in reserve to hang on by 0.16s for a big PB of 1:02.80.
Callum Bullock improved his 100 Breast to a 1:27.16 in the U14 event, placing 4th and Ollie Hurst repeated the feat in his Open 100 Back, another to swim something other than his best event, for the sake of the team. Hurst improved to 1:07.22 for 4th place.
After 10 events the club were in 5th place but the team spirit on poolside was exceptional.
Tamsin Moren got out of her sick bed to set yet another best in her 50 Breast of 46.28 competing as a 10 year old in the U12 events.
Amy Pemberton continues to show evidence of her class and once more swam a 61 second 100 free to finish second in a very close race by just 0.15 seconds before Chris Nel delivered so much power from the start that at the breakout he was already a body length ahead of the opposition. He kept moving away to win by nearly 2 seconds in an impressive 57.40.
Ish Rahim made it 2 wins in 3 races for the club in the U14 fly as he lowered his pb and club record to 1:05.92. Turning in under 30 seconds at half way he was able to touch and turn round to see the field coming in behind him at the finish as he had some 4 seconds in hand.
Yazii Brand, Emily Kiernan , Eli MacDonald and Eleanor Jolliffe combined for 5th in the Open Girls Medley relay followed by Sam Newman (32.77 backstroke lead off pb), Hurst, Jack Filer & Jordan Northwood claiming 3rd in their medley relay.
10 year olds Moren, Lara Coster and Essie Harrison teamed with 11 year old Emma Walker for the U12 relays and the first 3 will all still be eligible for this age group in 2017. For the boys both Tom Holmes-Higgin & Fin Ferguson are, likewise still eligible next year and joined Marchant and James Boylan for the boys.
The club’s current strength is in the 14/15 years for both girls and boys and this showed in their relays. Jess Potts led off to Abbie Hurst, Northwood and Pemberton whose final storming length just brought the squad home ahead of St. Albans in a thrilling finish where the first 3 teams were separated by under a second.
It was a different story for the boys where the squad of James Chennells, Mason Brand (returning to form), Hoyes and Nel, were never in trouble, cruising home in 2:01.62 for a 4 second winning margin.
In the U14 girls free relay, Abi Hewson led off in a 31.05 pb for her 50m, joined by Walker (swimming up), Izzy Sansom and Izzie Soulsby (another victim of illness) and then the U14 boys James Corner (29.85), James Boylan (swimming up) & Callum Bullock handed over to a flying Rahim whose 27.64 leg clawed the squad to 2nd place in 2:02.18.
Eli MacDonald continues to amaze as she dropped her 100 Breast time again in the Open race to 1:23.02, almost a second faster and then Jack Filer also gritted out another pb in his open boys Breast to come in 2nd in 1:10.94.
Chennells was involved in another close finish taking 2nd behind the Harpenden swimmer who has competed at Nationals, in 1:07.91 and then Hewson destroyed her 100 Free best time by over 4 seconds.
Showing the courage to attack hard over the first 50 she was 2.5 seconds ahead of schedule at halfway. The 12 year old who has another year in this age group finished 5th in 1:08.89 and was delighted with her performance.
Corner, again just 12 ears old, followed this with 2nd in his U14 free spot on his pb.
Yazii Brand is not at her old levels but has determination in abundance and, after another flying start, was able to hang on for 2nd in the Open 100 Fly when less than a second covered places 2 to 5.
Harrison set a pb of 37.00 for her U12 50 Free.
Abbie Hurst showed why she is so highly ranked as a 15 year old to win the U16 event in 1:18.23 and Brand continued his return to form with a best time for almost 2 years taking 4th in 1:19.36.
It was down to Rahim to claim the club’s final individual win in the 100 back where he claimed enough of a lead off the start to be able to control the race to win in 1:08.59.
Hurst, Newman, Filer and Northwood picked up 3rd in the Open Free relay including a pb, 26.70 lead off from Hurst.
Hoyes (26.84), Brand (28.08), Chennells (27.75) and Nel (26.92) repeated their 4 second winning margin from the medley relay, posting 1:49.59 to win the free relay.
The final, squadron, relay was a cacophony of noise and Harrison, Boylan, Soulsby, Rahim, Pemberton, Nel, MacDonald and Northwood brought the mixed squad home in 3rd place (both Nel and Northwood posting 25 second legs) to finish the gala in an impressive 4th overall.
The team spirt was exceptional and Coach, Geoff Wood, awarded the swimmer of the night awards to Hewson and Rahim for the individual event pbs and relay legs.
For the B team Masters swimmer, Zoe Doyle began the action with a 1:16.57 for her 100 Free in her first ever race for the club, followed by ex-club captain Hamish MacCaig, 1:03.31.
Daisy Laing improved her club ranking with 44.00 (pb) in the U12 50 back for 4th, as did Conall Clarke relishing his late call up, with 57.19.Returning from long term injury, Amy Stoker looked strong and smooth in her 100 Fly, for another 4th and Harrison Bullock lowered his best to 1:21.06 for yet another 4th place.
With all the injuries and illness, another late addition, Caitlin Kelley sliced a massive 11 seconds from her 100 Breast, a feat duplicated by Charlie Woodmansee in the next race for another 4th.
Vice Captain, Jenny Atwill will swim whatever is asked and was just a fraction off her 100 Back best time for 3rd followed by Peter Lever dropping his best to 1:11.12 and 4th again.
Grace Payne and Michael Joyce, in the U12 Breast picked up 4th and 3rd respectively with Joyce chopping 5 seconds off his time with 49.00.
The Harriet Collinge showed her innate ability with a 7 second improvement in the 100 Free 1:08.88 for the best finish on the night in 2nd and Adam Hawkswood, 1:04.75, placed 4th.
A brace of 5ths followed in the U14 fly races from 12 year olds Evie Watson and Danny Hoyes and it was into the first set of relays.
Doyle and Atwill were joined by another Masters swimmer, Sian MacDonald and 15 year old Stoker for the Open Medley and brought it home 5th and then the boys, Peter & Daniel Lever, MacCaig and Sam Newman placed 3rd with 58.61.
In the U16s, Watson swam up an age for the final, free leg of the Medley joining Harriet Horwood-Jones, Collinge & Stoker, again, for 3rd in 1:07.36 before the boys, Dan Chennells, Harry Thorne, Euan Donald & Hawkswood combined for an excellent 2nd place with 1:04.44.
There was another 2nd with the U14 boys Free relay of Woodmansee, Hoyes, Chennells and George Thorne, just outside the minute in 1:00.94.
Sian MacDonald turned back the years with a 1:34.06 for her 100 Breast as did Daniel Lever with 1:20.81.
Sam Baker went pb for his U12 fly in 18.56 and Harrison Bullock followed his fly pb with another, by nearly 2 seconds in his backstroke, 1:17.63 for 3rd.
First timer, Lucy Garner put in a really gutsy swim in what was also her first ever 100m race, posting 1:29.64 for her freestyle and was followed by Euan Donald, who has come on a lot in recent months, slicing nearly 6 seconds from his free to pop in a 1:08.87 and grab 2nd, a placing replicated by Tom Lyons in the Open 100 Fly.
Izzie MacDonald, another to have made big strides recently dropped her 50 Free pb to 37.75 and Marcus Donald enjoyed his first Herts League outing for the club in his 50 Free individual.
Collinge claimed another 3rd in the U16 100m Breast and Harry Thorne improved yet again to 1:20.50 for 2nd in the same age group.
Yet another 1st timer, Laura Geere, impressed with her underwater skills and posted 1:50.99 for her 100 back.
In the second round of relays there were 3 x 3rd places for the Open Boys Free squad, the U16 boys Free with Donald stepping up an age to make up the foursome and the U14 boys Medley squad.
With so many swimmers at the lower end of their age groups and so many stepping in at the last moment, the results were immensely impressive and the club look forward to the final round in 3 weeks’ time.