The first round of Arena League is always your chance to set out your stall and show everyone else you are racing what you are about. It’s the National Swimming League and we are in Division 2 of the London League, but we have ambitions to make it back up to Division 1 in the near future so we wanted a strong start to the competition in Braintree.
Coaching Team: Amy Thompson, Annie Thompson, Kelly Bailey
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With a poolside phone ban implemented by the pool and some newly purchased face paint and fluffy dolphin hats there was an abundance of team spirit and fun on poolside. Most of the team spent a large amount of the night at the end of lane 2 cheering their teammates on, which was great to see.
General observations of the swimming were that our standard of wall skills – starts, turns and finishes – was generally high, and we were picking up places throughout the night in these areas regardless of our actual swim speed. We do a lot of work on these skills as swimmers move through the club, so it’s good to see them being used to good effect in a race environment.
We had top 3 finishes on the night from: Ella M (200m IM, 100m breaststroke), Parker B, Nathan T, Alban G and Tom D in the U12 Boys Free Relay and the U12 Boys Medley Relay, Jess G, Aoife M, Florence C and Frankie I in the U14 Girls Medley Relay, Parker B, Tom C, Ben C and Scott H in the U14 Boys Medley Relay, Enya B, Luci S, Emma C and Izzy C in the U16 Girls Free Relay and the U16 Girls Medley Relay, Ruel S, Ben C, Charlie G and James A in the U16 Boys Free Relay, Larissa D, Izzy C, Ella M and Aggie B in the Open Girls Medley Relay, Tom D (50m backstroke, 50m butterfly), Emma C (100m backstroke, 100m freestyle), James A (100m backstroke, 100m butterfly)), Larissa D (100m butterfly), Ed C (100m butterfly), Layla J (50m butterfly), Florence C (100m backstroke, 100m freestyle), Toby M (100m backstroke, 100m butterfly), Izzy C (100m butterfly, 100m breaststroke), Aggie B (100m backstroke, 100m freestyle), Sara C (50m breaststroke), Alban G (50m breaststroke), Frankie I (100m butterfly), Parker B (50m freestyle), Ben C (100m freestyle), Amelia C, Sara C, Kiran B and Layla J in the U12 Girls Medley Relay, Frankie I, Jess G, Pippa W and Florence C in the U14 Girls Free Relay, Ben C, Parker B, Scott H and Toby M in the U14 Boys Free Relay, James A, Ruel S, Toby M and Charlie G in the U16 Boys Medley Relay, Ella M, Emma C, Luci S, Izzy C, Larissa D and Aggie B in the Open Girls 6 x 50m Free Relay and finally Dan T, Ed C, Ruel S, James A, Angus H and Freddie A in the Open Boys 6 x 50m Free Relay.
Notwithstanding all the rest of the hard swimming on the night, the final two races were outstanding. The girls set off at a pace and were quickly out at the front, neck and neck with Epping. Skills were coming to the fore as the girls eked out a few centimetres lead round their turns before Larissa stretched it a bit further for Aggie. In her true relay anchor style there was no way Aggie was letting anyone come round her and she stormed to the wall in first, with the girls missing the club record for the race by just 0.14 seconds!
We had rather front loaded our boys relay with Dan leading out followed by Ed, who combined for a 51.05 first 100m split. At the second changeover the race was in a flat line except that Harpenden were off on our own in lane 2 with about a 10-15m lead. There were some worried faces on the blocks but the boys swam their hearts out as the rest of the race began to close in on them. Angus handed off to Freddie with just a couple of metres lead over Halstead, and Freddie worked incredibly hard, just being overhauled at the very last moment to take second place. This is one of our best ever placing in this race and the wall of noise from both Harpenden and Halstead trying to get their boys to the finish was incredible.
The team placed second overall on the night to Epping, well clear of third place. This is exactly the start we wanted and we’re really excited to see the league positions come out and to find out who we race next. We came away from this event very proud of our swimmers, and very much looking forward to what will happen in the league going forwards.
There were four records set at the event; Toby M continued his streak by setting new 100m backstroke and 100m butterfly 11 year old records, and Ed C set a new 18 & Over and Club record with his lead off 50m backstroke in the Open Medley Relay! Congratulations!
Thank you to Chris and Bryan for officiating so we didn’t get a non-compliance fine, to Jo for organising the coach, Kelly for stepping in to support poolside at the last minute, and to Dan for coming back from university to help us out! Obviously, a big thanks to all the swimmers for their hard racing in this round, keep up the good work in training and we will see you in round 2!