Berkhamsted Swimming Club’s Ciara McKenna was in Sardinia last week for her first overseas international representing Great Britain at the European Down Syndrome Championships.
After the excitement of the opening ceremony, Ciara began in the 50m butterfly in a long-course 50m open-air pool. Despite nerves, her time of 1:15.58 was an all -course personal best (PB).
On the same day she finished the 100m backstroke in 2:37.74, swimming in a straight line despite no roof line to follow, which others struggled with.
Her first long-course 100m freestyle produced 2:03.67 and she posted 1:07.00 for the 50m backstroke.
She concluded with another PB in the 50m freestyle (51.70), which converted to a short-course (25m) PB.
On Saturday six open-water swimmers from the club competed at the Children With Cancer Swim Serpentine among some 5,000 others.
Plucky open-water debutant Destiny Carnell clocked 14.08 in the half-mile silver wave, which put the 13-year-old a spectacular 10th in her age group out of 354 swimmers.
Owen Strakosch, 17, was first in his age group and an impressive seventh overall after a time of 22.29.
He was closely followed by dad Mark in 23.11 for first in his age category and 13th overall .
Callum Bullock hit 24.11 for third in his age group, while brother Harrison clocked 25.00 in the one-mile swim for fourth in his age category and 46th overall out of 1,612 male competitors.
Debutant Izzy Sansom, 17, was a bit under the weather but still finished seventh in her age group for the one-mile event in a time of 27.52.
Meanwhile, the club had ten members competing in the Hemel Fly Fest on Saturday night.
First in the water was 12-year-old Caitie Walters, who was anxious to make up for a disqualification in the event last time out.
She absolutely smashed her previous best by 14 seconds, clocking 3:17.18 to finish first in her heat and post her first County Consideration Time (CCT) of the year for the January 2020 championships.
Next up were Eva Lawson, back from Millfield for this race, and Tamsin Moren.
It was neck and neck between the pair for the first 50m of the race, before Lawson forged ahead to finish first in the heat by nearly a length, chopping some 21 seconds from her best.
It was also a new club record by 18 seconds for her age group.
Moren paid a little for her fast start, but showed a strong mentality to fight for a fourth-placed finish in the heat and a two-second PB (3:20.55).
Destiny Carnell, fresh from her morning Serpentine swim, took on the 200m fly for the first time and clocked a fine 3:34.33 to complete a tough day of firsts for the youngster.
In the same heat, Alex Kalverboer was another swimmer keen to improve on a recent 200m fly performances. Using a more controlled race plan, he headed the field from the off and romped to a heat win in 2:58.60, ducking inside the three-minute barrier for the first time. He also earned a County Qualifying Time (CQT) for 2020.
Another first-timer at the event and distance was Izzy MacDonald. She started steadily, moving through her heat to come home in third (3:12.75), while in the same heat Keira Wharton fought for the win, touching in second place in a very tight race. She also dropped her own best by nine seconds to 3:02.61 as she regains her aerobic endurance.
Masters swimmer Tracy Van Deventer was determined to crack three minutes. She paced it to perfection with remarkably even stroke counts per length in the tough event to come home in 2:59.59.
Chris Hughes and Euan Donald both know only one way to race -- to go hard from the off. It’s not always the best tactic in the 200m fly but in his heat, Hughes led at 50m in 30.64 and fought gamely to the finish to touch in second place with a new PB time of 2:34.26. It broke a three-year-old club-best for his age group and was also a CCT.
Donald also claimed a CCT, coming in third in the fastest heat in 2:30.18, just outside his own PB time after many months out of the water.
His time was an excellent indication that his speed is still there and as he regains fitness, his endurance-event times will surely tumble rapidly.
The club’s head coach Geoff Wood said afterwards: “At the end of a great day’s swimming, the coaching team were rightly proud of the efforts of all our athletes as we progress into a hectic competitive schedule at this time of year.”