An under strength Berkhamsted SC found themselves up against it in the final round of the Arena League but stepped up and finished a creditable fifth place.
Early on they had languished in seventh with the very real possibility of relegation. However, a run of six wins, a second and a third in 12 races saw them comfortably into fifth before the final set of relays.
The night began with 15-year-old Amy Pemberton, on a cracking run of form, lowering her 200 IM best in the Open race, to 2:31.55 including a 50 fly best by almost half a second on the first 2 lengths. Amy also had a further drop in her 100 Free, when she was a clear winner of her age group race in 59.42, almost 1.5 seconds ahead of the field and moving her clear of the best in the County, at the moment on times swum.
She followed it up with a just outside the minute swim in the Open 100 Free and a scintillating series of relay legs. Both her IM and age group free were Open club best performances.
Ella Nijkamp has only been at the club since the summer but is an evident talent. After anchoring home the Girls’ 9-11 Free relay squad of Tamsin Moren (34.02 – pb), Abigail Briers (35.43) & Lydia Wisley (35.89) in 31.13, to the club’s first of 12 wins on the night and in a club record time of 2:16.07, Ella produced two individual wins as well.
In her age group 50 Back she led from the off to come home over three seconds clear of the rest in another pb and club record of 34.61, In her 50 Free she led off the blocks and stormed home in style again, in a slightly closer race finishing just 2 seconds clear. In between the 11 year old stepped into a void, caused by a swimmer’s unavailability, in the 12-13 years 100 Fly and stormed to a pb and County Qualification in 1:22.73.
Ella’s performances led to her winning one of the club’s ‘Swimmer of the night awards’ alongside the rest of the 9-11 girls who helper to a second club relay best in the Medley relay. In this one Abigail Briers showed excellent finishing skill execution when completing the last 5m without breathing and finishing right on the end of her stroke to take the victory by just 0.2 seconds because of this level of skill.
Evie Watson made her second County consideration time of the year with a three second pb in the 100 Breast after Alex Kalverboer had set a two second improvement in his 50 back for his own Consideration time.
It was good to see Charlotte Watson back swimming individual races for the first time in over a year where she has had major injury issues caused outside of swimming and was strong enough to swim both her own age group and Open 100m Back events.
Chennells made it a double personal win for him in the 100 Back in what was yet another pb and club record of 1:03.10, doing just enough to win his race and was followed by returnee from Uni, Eli MacDonald who showed that a lack of training is no handicap if you have talent as she posted nearly a one second best time of 1:11.13.
Sam Newman, whose attitude and support for his team mates, alongside his excellent swims, shared the Male swimmer of the night award, posted 1:05.50 for his 100 Fly and Sam Baker scored his first ever County Consideration time with 39.94 for the 9-11 years 50 Fly race, a pb by a whole second. After Abi Hewson had gone close to her best in the 100 Back (a feat she repeated in the 100 Free), Luke Nijkamp claimed his first CQT with an almost four second improvement in his own 100 Back as he grows in confidence. This was a swim which won him the second share of the Male Swimmer of the night beside Newman.
Ish Rahim showed composure under pressure to pull away in the final metres of his 100 Fly winning in 1:02.43, thanks to some superb underwater work as the skills training pays off.
Tamsin Moren is unbeaten in the Arena League 50m Breast this year and dropped her best yet again to 41.58 as she held on to win what turned out to be a very close finish.
Jordan Northwood’s night was curtailed in just the 2second event where, after a strong start to his 200 IM he suffered injury in his thigh and had to give up his place in the 100m Free to Christian Nel who again showed his natural talent with his second fastest ever swim, clocking 56.90 for fifth.
The big swing in points began in event 30 with Euan Donald hanging on grimly to fifth in his 100 Fly in what was an improved County time of 1:13.61. Pemberton followed with her first win and Chennells made it a clean sweep in the 14-15 years 100 Free where he was a class apart in terms of speed and skill, winning in 55.95. Victory for 15 year old Abbie Hurst in a smooth 1:16.91 for the Open Breast, Nijkamp in the girls’ 50 free, Hurst again in her own age group Breast, second for James Corner in the 12-13 Boys’ 100 Free, third for Patel in a club record and pb 1:14.93 in his own 100 Breast and fourth for Pemberton in the Open 100 Free, just failing to duck inside 60 seconds for the second time on the night (1:00.36) created a 16 point swing in just 11 races moving the team from seventh to fifth.
It was then down to the nerve jangling final set of relays in one of the noisiest atmospheres for a long, long time.
After the 9-11 girls’ wrapped up their relay clean sweep, Alex Kalverboer, Tom Holmes-Higgin, Sam Baker & Tommy Maidment claimed an unexpectedly high fifth place finish in their Medley relay. Late call up Elliss MacNab, having recently recovered from a shoulder injury had swum the crucial fly leg in the 12-13 Girls’ medley with her fastest ever 50m swim and helped Watson and Abi Hewson, aided by Moren swimming up in the free relay. Maidment had to swim up as well in the 12-13 boys’ free alongside Donald, Nijkamp and Corner.
The 15-16 Girls, Charlotte Watson, Hurst, Northwood and Pemberton worked their way through the field to a crucial win with an especially scintillating final 50m, catching Hemel Hempstead in the last 5m and touching 0.5 seconds ahead of their near neighbours.
Cam MacDonald overcame the disappointment of an early takeover in the Freestyle relay, where the squad of Zac Patel, Ish Rahim and James Chennells were disqualified, to swim over a second faster in his Medley relay leg. His 28.62 finish held onto what was to be a vital fourth place from a fast finishing Hemel Hempstead team.
In the final two events, the 6 x 50 canon free relays the girls placed sixth with Masters swimmer, Zoe Doyle, improving her best leg yet again to 31.14 alongside MacDonald (29.04), Potts (29.87 – sub 30 for the first time in ages), Northwood (31.20), Doyle and Pemberton (28.11).
It was then left to the boys, Chennells (25.94), Patel (26.51), Newman (27.17) Jordan Northwood (24.89), Rahim (26.52) and Nel (24.87) to claim fifth and secure fifth overall by just three points over Haringey Aquatics who had done all they could to close the gap by winning the final race!
Special mention has to be made of those who swam up in the age groups to fill gaps caused by unavailability and did so with aplomb and absolutely no complaints, Tommy Maidment, Alex Kalverboer, Abigail Briers, Tamsin Moren & Ella Nijkamp, evidencing just how strong the team spirit is at the club.
The crowded late Autumn / early winter programme of meets; leading up to the County Champs in January was to continue the following day with the Hertsmere Flyers Last Chance meet and on Thursday, December 15, Abbie Hurst travels to Sheffield for the Club’s first ever Senior National qualifier in the Winter Nationals 50 Breast and we all wish her a speedy swim.