The first five sessions of Herts County Championships proved an enormous success for Berkhamsted SC’s younger swimmers.
A total of 31 youngsters competed in some 77 races and made 19 finals. Between them they set 49 new PBs, broke 13 club records and won a gold medal, three silvers and three bronzes.
Abbie Hurst and Charlotte Watson, both 15, made the Open County finals in the 100 breast and 100 back, respectively.
Watson has suddenly started dropping time again and did so in her heat, showing good last 25m speed to post 1:08.91 on day one.
She then followed it with a fluid fourth place in the open final with another PB. In the age group final she was aggressive again and came away with an excellent bronze medal.
Hurst, meanwhile, is known as a top class kicker in the breaststroke and one of the top 15-year-olds in the country.
She pushed hard all the way in her heat, placing third in a PB of 1:15.80, before finishing just outside the medals in fourth in the Championship final.
However, minutes later, she was up for her age group final and, showing all her battling qualities, Hurst gritted it out to take the gold medal.
Ellen Northwood made the club’s first final on the opening day when she qualified second for the 15-year-old 100 fly, before winning the bronze.
Izzie Soulsby narrowly missed the final of her 100 fly when she improved her PB to 1:15.48, while James Corner dropped 4s in the 100 back to finish second in his heat and ninth overall.
Callum Bullock improved nearly 2s for 1:15.58 and James Chennells began an excellent two days by making his first final with a PB of 1:08.28, just keeping team-mate Zac Patel out of the final in ninth place.
Jamie Hoyes was the other swimmer to set a PB in the backstroke, while Chennells improved yet again in his final, showing great skills to move to seventh in 1:07.66.
In Session 2, five of the club’s girls went PB in their backstroke, making the final in the process.
Tamsin Moren lowered her PB to 1:31.24, followed by Abi Hewson improving to 1:19.22. Roisin Clarke was just outside her best but some 3s faster than recently. She was followed by Soulsby winning her heat imperiously, dropping 4s, and Hurst won her heat as well improving more than 2s.
In their respective finals, Moren improved yet again to 1:30.93 for seventh. Abi Hewson went close to her heat PB in finishing in seventh, while Soulsby managed to hold on to the silver medal at the finish.
Hurst improved on her seeding in the final, coming in fifth again, while the boys’ opening event in session 2 was the 100 fly and the first eight club athletes all improved their PBs.
Kieran Mallory started the ball rolling by finishing second in his heat and lowering his best by 7s. County novice Euan Donald clocked a big new PB, and Harrison Bullock won his heat with an impressive 1:18.36 PB, followed by George Thorne’s PB of 1:23.01.
Harry Thorne placed third in his heat with a PB of 1:13.94, then James Chennells made his second final of the day with a heat win and PB in 1:07.52.
Patel was again a reserve for the final in 10th with his own PB, but Ish Rahim made up for the disappointment of a disqualification in his backstroke by finalling with a 1:07.17 PB.
In the finals, Chennells took seventh, while Rahim went sub-67s with a 1:06.95 to win the silver medal.
Day 1 finished with the 200 IM for both girls and boys. Soulsby began the event with a gun to tape win in a regional time of 2:37.88, before placing fourth overall.
Abbie Hurst and Amy Pemberton both clocked PBs, before Tom Holmes-Higgin began the boys’ race with a 10s improvement and Chennells set his third best of the day with 2:27.14.
Yazii and Mason Brand both showed evidence of a return to form with their IM swims too.
The Sunday sessions began with the girls’ 100 breast and more finals. Moren started the day with a 3s PB to reach the final, and Amelie Baker was right on her PB with 1:31.64.
Soulsby improved yet again for another RQT to book a final place with 1:23.56, and in the same heat there were excellent best swims from Watson and Northwood.
After Hurst’s championship final, Moren finished sixth in the 10/11 years final and Soulsby just missed a medal despite setting another PB.
The boys began the day with their 100 free, and James Corner made their first final of the day with 1:06.05.
Rahim looked in awesome shape as he went from a 64s entry time to go 1:00.89 and reach the final as fourth qualifier (RQT).
In the next heat James Chennells led the way as he clocked his own RQT, leading home team-mates Harry Thorne (1:02.18 PB) and Patel.
The club also had Jamie Hoyes, Chris Nel and Jordan Northwood all going under 60s.
Corner improved from heat to final, turning on the fire power to go PB in 1:05.13 for the bronze medal and his own RQT for the stroke and distance.
Chennells improved on his seeding in the final to finish in fifth place with another 58s swim.
Rahim knew he needed a PB to have a chance of a medal in a very strong age group. Showing incredible belief he smashed through the 60s barrier for the first time with 59.40 to finish in fourth position overall.
In the afternoon, Northwood went 1:04.66 for her own PB in the free and Elinor MacDonald won her heat with a PB of 1:03.41.
Then Pemberton stepped up to claim an RQT with 1:01.30 to make the final, where she repeated the 61s swim to come away with a valiant silver medal.
The final event of the two days was the boys’ 100 breast. George Thorne went PB in his heat as did Callum Bullock. Mallory was within 1/10th of a second of his own best and then Rahim won his heat on the last stroke.
Patel improved by 3s to win his heat, and Harry Thorne also improved in what has been a breakthrough season for him.
Of the older boys, Ollie Hurst suffered from lack of water time, Jack Filer just missed the open final in ninth place and Jordan Northwood produced possibly his best race so far, just 0.08s outside his best.
In his final, Rahim repeated his 1:22 swim from the heat and claimed fourth place.
Meanwhile, masters swimmer Mark Strakosch travelled to Crawley for the South East Masters Long Course meet.
He set a 5s PB at 54 years old with a 6:18 swim in the 400 IM and then set an East Region Age Group best performance in the 800 free with 10:38.35.