Saturday was another tough night for Berkhamsted Swimming Club as the A Team tackled the final round of the Herts League at Hemel Hempstead and the B Team travelled to Borehamwood.
Despite a number of novices being drafted into the squads, the A team finished a sparkling second on the night to secure eighth place in the top flight.
The B team – with just 24 swimmers battling it out against full squads of 32 – fought hard all night long for fifth place. The final outcome means that the B team were relegated to the third tier for 2017 but the whole squad could be proud of their achievements.
The A team went in seeded first for their gala but knew the opposition would be tough and they would have to be on top form to get a result.
The Watford squad proved just too strong on the night but, after a gala long struggle with CoStA, Hodddesdon and Hertford, the team came away with an exceptional second place on the night.
Elsewhere, in the GB Masters Long Course Championships, Mark Strakosch and Tracy Fairweather came away with silver and bronze respectively in their age group for the 400 IM races.
Strakosch set PBs in his 200m breast (fifth), 200m back and 400m free (fourth in both).
Both swimmers are now confident going into the European Masters Championships to be held at the London Aquatic Centre in May.
Meanwhile, Zoe Doyle travelled to Ancona in Italy, for the European Masters Indoor Athletics Championships.
In her first effort at this level, Zoe made the women’s 35 years age group finals for both the 800m and 400m, setting a PB in the heat of her 400m.
In the 800m she was just outside the medals in fourth place, while in the 400m she finished sixth.
However, her best moment came in the 4x400m final where she was part of the silver medal winning GB squad, completing an excellent weekend.
The club’s swimmers now look forward to the Regional Championships in May, with a record 17 qualifiers and to the Junior (Peanuts) League.
Looking back at the Herts League gala, B Team masters swimmer Sian MacDonald showed the way in the first race with her first 100 free for a number of years.
Showing real determination she posted 1:20.89 and was immediately followed by Sam Newman who goes under the minute every time for his 100 free these days, 59.29 and second place.
Marcus Donald set his own best figures in the 50 back with 51.43 and then Harriet Collinge stepped up to represent the club in 6 races including two 100m fly races.
This won her one of the swimmers of the night awards from Jan Stevens for her fortitude and uncomplaining attitude. A real role model for the youngsters.
Daniel Chennells took his chance with both hands slicing 11 seconds from his 100m Breast time, clocking 1:39.61 for 4th place and his share of the male swimmer of the night award, following Caitlin Kelley’s new best of 1:49.14 for her own U14 breast event.
Elliss MacNab caught the PB bug when dipping 5 seconds inside her old best time in the U12 breast as well with 54.50 and was joined by Jamie Powell who placed 3rd in 50.78 for the boys.
Louise Holden stormed through her U16 100m freestyle to clock 1:13.64, knocking off almost another 5 seconds and gaining the second female of the night award before Kelley stepped up for the second time to lower her own 50 Fly by nearly 4 seconds, just minutes after her breaststroke efforts and was followed immediately by Danny Hoyes improving his own 4 seconds to go 40.14.
In the first set of relays, the Open boys squad of Daniel & Peter Lever, Tom Lyons and Newman had set themselves the target of breaking both of the Club’s Open relay records. They achieved the first part, clocking 56.33 and dropping the record by almost 2 seconds for 2nd place.
MacNab teamed up with Lydia Wisely, Lara Coster & Daisy Laing to go 4 seconds faster than their combined PBs in the U12 Free relay and there was another 2nd place for the boys U14 free relay squad of Owen Strakosch, Chennells, Hoyes and Euan Donald as they dipped under the minute with 59.76.
Sian MacDonald was spot on her PB in the Open Breaststroke and Daniel Lever improved his 2nd round breaststroke time by over a second with 1:19.33.
Coster went PB in her U12 fly before Laura Geere amazed herself as much as anybody by improving a huge 15 seconds on her front crawl as she learns to race, stopping the clock at 1:30.20.
Euan Donald cruised home for the team’s first win of the night in the U14 100m free. Lyons claimed 2nd in the Open fly, just outside his best and Maddie Kiernan then took the U16 Breaststroke as she lowered her best by 2 seconds to 1:25.43.
In between, newcomer Rafael Artmstrong dropped 5 seconds on his 50 free for a deserved 4th place in his first outing and the individual events ended with victory for Strakosch in the U14 backstroke when he smashed his PB by over 9 seconds, hitting the pads in 1:22.70 and claimed the second Male of the Night award.
The final set of relays saw the Open boys complete their mission when winning the Free relay and taking the club record under 50 seconds. In a tight finish Lyons brought them home to win by just 5/100ths of a second in 49.95.
Collinge, Harriet Horwood Jones, Kiernan and Holden went sub 60 for the free relay (59.94) as did the boys (Adam Hawkswood, Strakosch, Cam MacDonald & Euan Donald; Strakosch and Donald swimming up an age group; (57.31) with the girls pinching 2nd place.
Finally, the U14 boys managed 2nd in their medley with Strakosch and Donald in the water again, teaming with Hoyes and Chennells.
For the A Team, Jenny Atwill started the night on a positive note, just outside her best ever in 1:05.58 for the Open 100 Free and Ollie Hurst improved to 59.01 for 3rd in the Open boys after a rapid opening 50m.
Izzie MacDonald dropped her 50 back by 2 seconds, as did David Graham with MacDonald 3rd (41.88) and Graham 2nd (41.44).
Ellen Northwood claimed another 3rd in the U16 fly, just not quite having enough in the tank up the final 25m, with the first 3 covered by just half a second at the end.
Then Jamie Hoyes delivered a masterclass fly coming home 4 seconds ahead of the field, a distance he had by halfway recording 1:03.21 unchallenged.
Izzie Soulsby made it 2 consecutive wins, winning the U14 100 Breast by 4 seconds again in 1:22.66 and then Louis Armitage, in his first race after a lengthy spell out ill, stopped the timing in a new best of 1:28.57 for 4th place.
Emily Kiernan, another on limited training time, was right on her best in the 100m back as was Tom Strakosch, returning from University for the club.
Tamsin Moren proved too strong for the other U12 girls in the 50 Breast improving 2 seconds to take the win in 44.30 (Club best time), followed by James Boylan pinching 3rd in the last 2 strokes as he finished hard in a 4 second pb with 46.60.
Amy Pemberton is a quality freestyler up to regional level and had too much class for the others as she came home 5 seconds ahead of the100m field in a pb of 1:01.18 and then Chris Nel was involved in a tight finish, just 3/100ths behind the winner in 56.49, his own second fastest ever 100m free.
Soulsby was back in the water for the 100m fly and punched out a pb of 1:14.74 for 3rd place and then Ish Rahim showed why he is respected at Regional level with a crushing 1:03.91 to come home 11 seconds ahead of his field for his own pb and a new club record.
In the first round of relays, Kiernan teamed with Eli MacDonald, Jess Potts and Atwill for 3rd in the Open Medley 200m relay (2:15.70)as were the boys team of Strakosch, Hurst, Jack Filer & Jordan Northwood) with 1:57.08.
The U12 girls free relay picked up yet another 3rd place with Grace Payne, Izzie MacDonald, Moren and first timer Abigail Briers posting 2:27.93.
Nel, Hoyes & James Chennells were joined by 12 year old Kieran Mallory for the U16 Medley relay and helped him to a win in 2:03.25 as Chennells anchored them home in 27.03 after another blistering fly leg from Hoyes.
Mallory was back in, just minutes later, in his own age group free relay to bring home another win with James Corner, Armitage and Rahim being the only squad sub 2 minutes in 1:59.56. Eli MacDonald and Filer took respective 3rd places in the Open Breast, Payne set a pb in her U12 50 Fly and David Graham chopped 5 seconds from his 50 fly (46.81) both youngsters in 3rd place again.
Charlotte Watson is still on the return trail, recovering from injury, and claimed a gutsy 4th in her backstroke followed by a club best for Chennells as he took 2nd in 1:05.24 for a 2 second pb in his U16 race.
Izzie Sansom’s self belief returned in the U14 100m free as she set her own best time of 1:12.12 for 4th place and then Corner won his U12 free in another tight contest with a best time of 1:04.45.
Jordan Northwood has had a tough 2016 in terms of illness but was close to his best in the Open Fly, putting in a 1:04.47 for 3rd and Briers showed she was not fazed by the step up in level, dropping her 50 free best to 37.68 as did the second first time league swimmer, Elliott Clifford, improving to 46.20 for 5th place.
Pemberton is a reluctant breaststroker but stepped into the breach to come home with her second win of the night in a 2 second improvement to 1:21.06 in the U16 event before Mallory closed out the individual events with a PB (1:24.02) in his U14 100m backstroke.
In the second set of relays, the U16 squads triumphed again in the free races with Watson leading off to Potts, Northwood and Pemberton for a win in 1:57.70 and Hoyes sent in Rahim, Chennells and Nel to come home in 1:49.01.
The final race of the night was the traditional 8x50m squadron and, again, it was Berkhamsted against Watford all the way as Payne, Boylan, Soulsby, Rahim, Pemberton, Hoyes, MacDonald and Filer gave their all for a 2nd placed 3:58.75, a performance that had everybody shouting at the tops of their voices.
Geoff Wood awarded swimmer of the night awards to Pemberton and Filer for their efforts throughout the night.