Hemel’s 103rd Birthday Open was celebrated in style with 270 swimmers from 13 clubs participating.
Hemel swimmers excelled winning 87 gold medals, 158 silver and bronze medals, and setting over 330 personal best times. Two club open records and six age group records were broken. Congratulations to Watford SC who won the best visiting club award, and to Jack Spence and Alice Fender, both from Hemel, who won the skins competitions.
Jack Christie broke the boys open 50 breast stroke record last set ten years ago with a massive 1 second PB and now has his sights fixed firmly on breaking the 30 second barrier. Jack also won three golds and a silver. Alice Fender won six golds and a silver, setting a new girls open record in the 200 free with a time that is now very close to the short course National Winter Championship qualifying time and an age group record in the 100IM.
Holly Robinson set a new age group record in the 100 back as well as winning four golds and five silvers in her nine races, Georgia Purkis set a new age group record in the 200 free as well as winning six gold medals, and Ashley Coombs set a new age group record and won gold in the 50 free.
Amongst many highlights from the two days, Millie Anderton won two golds, three silvers and a bronze with eight PBs from 11 swims. Joe Coldwell won two golds, three silvers and a bronze and set six PBs from eight swims. Millie Herbert won six golds and a silver in her seven races. Keelin McKenna won six golds and two silvers from eight swims. Mattias Morse won three golds and four silvers with a PB in each of his seven swims. Sam Warner won one gold and two bronzes, setting nine PBs from 11 swims, and Nathan Whiting won a gold, three silvers, two bronzes and set six PBs.
Other gold medallists were Seyi Bankole, Tilly Beckwith, Freya Beresford, Chris Cox (2), Jonny Farrow (3), Josh Gaines (2), Tony Gaines, Joe Gillam, Kyle Holmes (3), Kevin McKenna (2), Shona McKenna (3), Mattias Morse (3), Harrison Newbury-Kemp (4), Henry Newbury-Kemp (3), Vanessa Parker (4), Chloe Purkis, Rebecca Sewell (6), Jack Spence (1), Amber Stratford (3), Caitlin Walters (3), Sam Warner and Nathan Whiting.
The boys’ skins competition where the six fastest 50m freestylers compete in a series of knock out races where the slowest swimmer is eliminated was dominated by Hemel who provided five of the six finalists – Jack Spence, Jack Christie, Joe Gillam, Ashley Coombs, and Kyle Holmes – with Jack Spence taking the final race against Jack Christie. There were three Hemel swimmers in the girls’ event – Rebecca Sewell, Alice Fender and Shona McKenna – with Alice coming out on top after a very close fought final leg with Berkhamsted’s Amy Pemberton.
Swimmers who clocked up a significant number of PBs were Maisie Adams (7), Seve, Caririllo de Albornoz (6), Mabel Coldwell (6), Charlotte Hingston (6), Daniel Keates (8), Elizabeth Kelly (6), Dylan Kennell (11), Manas Kubal (6), Niall Marsden (6) and Sveta Nanda (7).
There were any number of County qualification and consideration times achieved, but special mention should go to those swimmers who got themselves onto the county shortlist for the first time - Daniel Keates, Dylan Kennell, Evie Lyons, Freya McDonagh, Elliott Hutchings and Sam Warner.
With 115 swimmers poolside over the weekend entered in over 650 events the Birthday Open is always a challenge for the coaching team, so congratulations to Head Coach Oliver, Alan Doyle, Alan Coldwell, Lauren Wilding and everyone who provided support to Team Hemel for ensuring that every swimmer was prepared, at the right place at the right time, and got feedback on their performance.
We were fortunate this year to receive support from a number of sponsors. Orchid Estate Agents and David and Rose Cox both financed the skins competitions, Epson Europe BV sponsored the programme, Maru Swimwear provided the highly popular spot prizes awarded to the winners of selected heats, Grosvenor Wealth Management, who sponsored the medals, and Mailsports International who ran the pop up shop and provided raffle prizes.
Finally a word about the people who put in all the effort that goes into making these events seem effortless. Our lead referee, Jonathan Pope, Hemel’s Ian Sewell who manages the officials, Marlize Kennell who organises the 750 medals required by the event, and everyone who ran the results, sorted the swimmers into the right lanes, made the announcements, provided refreshments, and monitored the changing rooms. And last but not least to meet organiser Louise Farrow without whose hard work in the months leading up to the event and organisational skills on the day this open would not take place.