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Harpenden Swimming Club is a competitive swimming club, and we expect all of our members to be competing on a regular basis in open meets, club galas and leagues as appropriate. A large percentage of our swimmers make County Championships every year, and we also have swimmers making East Region Championships on a regular basis. Below is a brief explanation of each type of competition.

Internal Competitions

Harpenden hold Club Championships during the competition year encompassing 200m Champs and Sprint Champs. Swimmers are encouraged to enter every event that they are eligible for as these competitions provide a fun, low key environment in which to race events that they would not normally enter. There are trophies for the top swimmer in each age group, medals for the top three swimmers in each event, and a certificate for every swimmer who participates. The age at date for these Championships is 31st December in the calendar year.

The club also holds an annual Team Gala in December. Upon joining the club each swimmer is allocated to one of three teams, who then battle it out to win the coveted Team Gala trophy and bragging rights for the year. This is a fun gala, with team colours, Christmas hats and a happy atmosphere! The three teams are named after famous swimmers:

Team Phelps (Red) – named after Michael Phelps, 22x Olympic medallist (18 golds) and multiple world record holder. Best know for butterfly.

Team Jones (Yellow) – named after Leisel Jones, 9x Olympic medallist and former world record holder. Best known for breaststroke.

Team Manaudou (Blue) – named after Laure Manaudou, 3x Olympic medallist and France’s first ever female swimming Olympic gold medallist. Best known for distance freestyle. Recently, the name Manaudou is better known for her younger brother, Florent Manaudou, who claimed gold in the 50m freestyle in London.

External Competitions

Open meets

Open meets are the most common form of competition for our swimmers. They are events that are put on by swimming clubs with a range of different events and age groups. Other clubs are then invited to enter their swimmers. All open meets are slightly different as the host club can choose the format.

There are different levels of open meets that target different groups of swimmers. Meets can either be licensed or not licensed. In order to qualify for County Championships and higher, times must have been achieved at licensed meets. Non-licensed meets are often novice meets and these are good for swimmers who are just starting out.

There are 4 levels of licensing. Level 4 is the lowest level of licensing and generally reserved for Club Championships, although Harpenden currently does not license Club Championships in order to take the pressure off at this event. Level 3 meets are aimed at those attempting to qualify for County and Regional Championships and higher level meets. These meets usually have both qualifying times (you must be of a certain standard to enter) and ‘no faster than’ times, although these are at the discretion of the host club. Level 2 meets are held in 25m (short course) pools and have a minimum qualification time set by the ASA. Level 1 meets are held in 50m (long course) pools and are also subject to ASA minimum qualification times. These two levels are aimed at swimmers looking for Regional and National times.

The majority of meets that Harpenden swimmers compete in are Level 3 open meets, although in the higher squads swimmers are sometimes sent to higher level meets.


Galas provide the swimmers with an opportunity to race as part of a team. The club participates in the Hertfordshire Swimming Leagues, sending teams to both Hertfordshire Major League and Hertfordshire Peanuts (Junior) League, and the National Arena Swimming League.

Hertfordshire Swimming League

The Hertfordshire Swimming Leagues run in a gala format where you are swimming for Harpenden against other clubs from the county. There are 12 teams in the top two divisions, making 2 6-team galas per round. The overall winners of each gala on the night get 6 league points, down to 6th place who get 1. The league runs over three rounds. The first round is a random draw, although the top 4 teams are seeded and are there are two in each gala. The second round is drawn as follows.

Gala 1 Results: A – 1st, B – 2nd, C – 3rd, D – 4th, E – 5th, F – 6th

Gala 2 Results: Z – 1st, Y – 2nd, X – 3rd, W – 4th, V – 5th, U – 6th

The above are the results of the two galas of round 1. In the second round, the oddly placed teams of gala 1 race the even placed teams of gala 2, and vice versa. So here, round 2 gala 1 would be between teams A, Y, C, W, E & U and round 2 gala 2 would be between teams Z, B, X, D, V & F. The third round is defined by league points after the first 2 rounds, with the top 6 in the league racing each other, and the bottom 6.

Each League has 4 age groups, with Major League having under 12, under 14, under 16 and Open and Peanuts League having 9, under 11, under 12 and under 13. In each age group, there are 4 individual events (one of each stroke), a medley relay and a freestyle relay. A swimmer can only do 2 individual events in their age group. The last event of the night is the squadron relay; an 8 man freestyle relay with a boy and a girl from each age group.  A swimmer can, therefore, have a maximum of 5 events in their own age group, 2 individuals, 2 relays and the squadron. A swimmer can, however, be asked to ‘swim up’ an age group, covering individuals/relays as required. In Divisions 1 & 2 the top team wins the league, and the bottom 2 get relegated. In Division 3 the top 2 teams get promoted to Division 2.

Swimmers cannot enter for the leagues, they are called up by the club as part of the team but are expected to swim when called upon. For more information on the Hertfordshire Swimming Leagues please visit their website here.


Championships are the higher levels of competition. Harpenden compete in the Hertfordshire County Championships, the ASA East Region Championships and the National Championships. It is normal for a swimmer to progress slowly through these levels of competition.

County Championships

County Championships are held in January for swimmers aged 10 and over. This is the key competition in the year for many of our swimmers. This is a short course championships, and the event runs over a number of weekends. In order to compete the swimmers must reach the qualifying standards set by the county. These times must be achieved at licensed competitions.

Regional Championships

There are two Regional Championships in the year. The ASA East Region Winter Championships are a short course open championships held in November for which qualifying standards must be achieved. The times must be achieved at licensed competitions. The ASA East Region Championships are held in May as a long course championships for swimmers aged 11 and over. Again, qualifying standards must be achieved in order to enter the competition. Times for the Regional Championships must be swum at licensed open meets of Level 3 or above.

National Championships

There are a number of National Championships. In March there are the British Championships, a long course open championships for which qualifying standards must be achieved at licensed competitions. In July there are the British Summer Championships, which are a long course championships for swimmers aged 12 and over. The top 24 swimmers in each age group in each event based on the British Rankings database are invited to this competition. In August there are the British National Championships, a long course championships for swimmers aged 12 and over. This is a home nations championships, so for the English Championships the 25th-48th ranked swimmers will be invited to race based on the British Rankings database.

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