Abbie sets club mark as first British medal winner

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Berkhamsted Swimming Club had three competitors taking part in the National Championships at Ponds Forge, Sheffield, over the last fortnight.

Abbie Hurst, Zac Patel and James Chennells had all finished inside the top 45 swimmers in Britain in their age groups over the qualifying period of events this spring.

Hurst and Patel both made the British Championships with Chennells competing at the English Championships in week two.

Abbie began the first week of competition with the 16-years 50m breaststroke.

A strong swim in the heat saw her enter the final as the third-fastest qualifier, after she posted 33.66 from the outside lane.

In the final later that afternoon she started well but the first and second-placed swimmers were well clear from half way. A battling swim saw Abbie clock her second fastest swim in the event, 33.34, and gamely hold on to claim her first medal at a the British Championships, earning a bronze. It was also the first time a swimmer from the club has been on the podium at the event.

Abbie followed this with a 2:49.22 in the 200m breaststroke on day two, some way off her best, but she bounced back on the final day of the meet in the 100m Breaststroke. Her time of 1:16.25 was only 0.1 seconds shy of her best this year to finish 11th and just one place out of the final.

Zac had surprised everybody by making his first appearance at the national level and showed he was not cowed by the occasion.

He missed his PB by just 0.1s and was bitterly disappointed to not have spotted his finish, having to glide in at the end of the race (26.97).

However, he should be delighted with his placing of 12th overall – second reserve for the final – in his first effort at this highest level in age-group swimming in Britain.

James Chennells was also competing at the nationals for the first time having made the cut in four events – 50m, 100m and 200m freestyle, and 200m individual medley – the most ever from anybody at the club.

He began with the 200m freestyle and swept into the final as the eighth-fastest qualifier (2:01.62). In the final, he improved his time by swimming completely differently.

A much more conservative start saw him cover the first 100m some two seconds slower than the heat. This meant he had more left for the finishing stretch and came home three seconds quicker than the morning. His finishing time of 2:00.98 was a PB and club record, good enough for eighth place overall.

James followed this up with another final on day two in the 50m freestyle. In the heat he posted his second-fastest time (25.52) making the final in 10th place.

The final was even quicker and James fought hard to come home in 25.42, exactly equalling his PB time from the regional championships in May.

The final day saw his energy levels drop slightly as the emotion of the first two days took its toll.

He swam 56.10 for the 100m freestyle and ended with 2:20.57 in his 200 IM, finished the meet for him, placing him ninth in his heat.

Berkhamstead club head coach Geoff Wood said: “All three swimmers made it plain that their intention is to return to this top-table in 2018 and, hopefully, pull others from the club to the same heights as they emulate the three pace-setters.”