Berkhamsted Swimming Club had competitors at both ends of the age spectrum in high-level action recently.
Mark Strakosch and Tracy Van DeVenter travelled to Sheffield for the English Masters Short-Course Championships while six of the club’s young swimmers went to the Inspire complex in Luton to compete in the East Region Winter Championships.
In Sheffield, Van DeVenter and Strakosch were up against the best Masters swimmers in the country and turned in some exceptional performances.
Van DeVenter took on the two longest events on the schedule, the 400m individual medley (IM) and the 800m freestyle where she set personal bests (PBs) on both, finishing fifth on each occasion.
Her 400m IM swim saw her go under six minutes for the first time (5:58.30), having started with a first 100m fly which was only three seconds slower than her best for the 100m on its own.
She followed that with her best effort in the 800m freestyle, which again, at the halfway point was just three seconds outside her 400m best time, showing how strong she has become, despite being laden with a cold ahead of the swim, posting 10:42.88 for the full distance.
Strakosch was swimming faster than he has done for the last three years, showing it is never too late to benefit from hard work.
In the 50m freestyle, his 31.31 placed him 20th and in the 200m backstroke he clocked 2:52.61 for 10th place, before picking up his customary distance medal with a bronze in the 800m freestyle in 10:17.24, just outside the regional record he was striving for.
At Luton, Ellen Northwood, Issy Soulsby, Ish Rahim and Dan Chennells were competing in the individual events at the East Region Winter Championships, joined by George and Harry Thorne for the three male relays which the club entered for the first time.
Unfortunately, several other club members who qualified were unavailable to attend due to illness and non-swimming related injury, reducing the club’s overall presence.
The meet began with Rahim completing a PB in the 200m IM, lowering his best in what was a County Consideration Time (CCT) for January for the 16-year-old.
Soulsby blasted out a 32.67 in the 50m backstroke for her third fastest time and her first CCT for the event at counties next year.
Rahim clocked 2:24.28 in the 200m fly, which was an improvement of more than two seconds on his recent swim in the Hemel Fly Fest, before Soulsby returned with a 1:12.77 time for her 100m IM.
Her IM performances were strong all weekend and further evidence of this was in the 400m IM, the first event of the Saturday afternoon session when she was ahead of her two-year-old PB throughout the whole race, eventually clocking a County Qualifying Time (CQT) of 5:26.19 and a new PB, looking strong all the way.
Northwood joined the party for the 50m fly and kept up her consistent qualification for the County Championships at the event and distance, when she again posted her third fastest time (31.35) as she returns to something like her old best.
Rahim was pleased with all his swims, bar the finish of his 50m fly where he glided in to be just a fraction off his best (27.17).
Soulsby then completed a heavy day in the 200m backstroke where, after a solid start, she fell away in the final lengths but was still quick enough to post a CCT for counties in 2:34.64.
The final race of the session was the 4 x 200m freestyle relay for the boys and Rahim was joined by Chennells, George and Harry Thorne. Rahim led off with a PB 2:05.38, followed by George, Harry and Dan as they set an inaugural 4 x 200m record for the club in 8:51.29.
The foursome then stayed together for the evening finals session where they competed in the 4 x 100m freestyle relay and all four went faster than ever before. This time Chennells led-off in 57.91, followed by Harry and George, both fractionally outside 60 seconds, but closing in on the sub-60 second mark. Rahim brought them home with a 56.59 leg for a final time of 3:55.04.
Sunday began with Soulsby paring 6/100ths from her 200 IM best in 2:35.41 for yet another CCT in her first year as an Open swimmer next year.
Rahim cruised to a new best and CQT in the 50m backstroke with a rapid 29.12, but was slightly disappointed to only clock 1:01.17 for his 100m fly, although this did improve his CQT for next year. However, he followed it up with an improvement to 1:06.69 in the 100m IM for another CCT in a busy afternoon.
Soulsby set herself a sub-70 target for the 100m backstroke and looked on target throughout but stopped the clock on 1:10.00 exactly for another CCT.
Chennells returned for his 100m freestyle in the final individual event of the weekend and set the bar high for Rahim to follow with an aggressive swim that saw him go faster by over a second to hit the pads in 56.45 and a heat win from start to finish.
His time was faster than Rahim’s existing best, so the challenge was on. Rahim responded with his own PB, also by more than a second in 55.61, to end the meet on a high note.
The event finished with the 4 x 100m medley relay, led off by George Thorne, who lowered his best to 1:09.45 for the 100m backstroke. Harry, in the breaststroke leg, swam his second fastest time ever with a split of 1:15.60. Rahim clocked 1:02.53 for his fly and Chennells anchored the quartet home with 56.53 as the foursome posted 4:24.11.
Soulsby’s 400m IM and Rahim’s 50m backstroke and 200 fly were all club records as well.
At this early stage in the season the swimmers showed what can be done when they are tapered and fresh for the big meets later in the season and should all be proud of what they achieved over the two days, said the club’s head coach Geoff Wood.