A hard fought opening round to the prestigious Speedo London League saw City of Cambridge Swimming Club victorious at the weekend.
The club, which made it all the way to the National A finals last year, faced a tough battle at the Harlow Penguins hosted gala – spectators were kept on the edge of their seats as the lead changed hands throughout the event.
But Cambridge finished 10 points ahead of closest rival Harrow and Wealdstone, with the rest of the field around 30 points adrift from the leaders.
Nic Charlesworth opened the gala with a stunning performance in the open age group 200m Individual Medley. Charlesworth clearly outclassed the rest of the field, leading throughout and finishing with metres of clear water between first and second place on an easy 2.20.92.
Teammate Chris Tidey was next in the water, with a decisive victory in the men’s open 200m Individual Medley, touching on 2.12.76 despite injuring his foot earlier in the day.
The pair took two more wins each for Cambridge - Tidey in the 100m breastroke on 1.06.64 and Charlesworth in the 100m backstroke with 1.07.39. And former GB swimmer Ian Thwaites had the crowd roaring as he did just enough to finish first in the men’s open 100m backstroke, pacing his swim to touch just centimetres ahead of his closest rival. Thwaites was back in the water for the 100m freestyle, another crowd-pleaser, taking first place with 52.09.
But it was the younger swimmers who raised their game to make first place – Miriam Crawford, swimming in the open age group for the first time, took wins in both her individual events with personal bests in both the 100m butterfly (1.07.76) and the 100m freestyle (1.00.48).
Twelve-year-old Sophie McGowan also claimed two victories, again both personal bests, as she finished first in the 100m freestyle on1.05.26, and won the 100m backstroke with 1.15.13 in the 13 and unders. Swimming in the same age group, Josh Pettican,13, cut it fine to claim victory, accelerating in the last 15 metres to claim first on a PB of 1.10.67. Pettican was back on the blocks after a very short rest and was just out-touched to finish a creditable second place in the100m fly with another PB of 1.10.39.
Rachel Loudain led the field in the girls 15 and under 100m breastroke with an impressive personal best of 1.14.61 and in the same age group Krissie Taylor added to the points haul with a win in the 100m fly on 1.10.01.
Harper Staples swam up in the open age group, holding her own in the 100m breastroke to finish second with 1.19.64.
And there were some cracking performances from the relay teams with wins in five of the events including the girls 15 and under freestyle relay, the same age boys medley event, and the two open relays – in the latter two events the results were even more impressive given that many of the swimmers were taking part in an age group above their own, with many chosen from the 15 and under age group.
The fifth relay win was provided by the girls 15 and under medley squad of Laura McGowan, Harper Staples, Hannah Edwards and Charlotte Haines. All produced very strong performances but it was Haines that stood out as she streaked ahead in the fly leg to give the girls a clear advantage.
There were good solid performances from the entire squad, steadily building up the points that were to lead to Cambridge’s victory.
Sean Collier and Tilly Beekend were second and third respectively in the 11s and under 50m backstroke events, both on PBs – Beeken touched with 40.26 and Collier on 39.39. In the next age group up, George Crofts hit another PB to finish second on 1.23.57, while teammate Storm Macauley Leak took almost four seconds off her previous best, finishing fourth on 1.31.61.
Alex Nixon claimed third place and another PB in the boys’ 11s and under 50m breastroke (47.26), while Catherine Mumford finished the 100m 13s and under fly in her best time ever of 1.32.01.
Hannah Edwards took second place in the 15/u freestyle with a PB of 1.02.54, Cody Duncan finished the boys 11/u 50 m freestyle in 35.39, another PB, and James Gallagher also clocked a personal best of 1.16.73 to pick up third place in the boys 15/u 100m breastroke.
There were also good swims, individual and relay, from Helen Struthers, Victoria Way, Amy Dive, Alex Graham, Andrew Thompson, Michelle Page-Croft, Adam Oakman, Harry Douglas, Tim Shipton, Ellis Winster, James Smith, Ashley Morris, Alice Ely, Andrew Diplock, Lennard Lee, Mark Taylor, Sophie Last and Douglas Gordon.
Head coach Tim Westlake said: “It was a job well done – the squad performed very well at all levels, from the very youngest who were competing at this level for the first time through to our more experienced swimmers. It was a great team atmosphere poolside and an excellent way to start the new Speedo campaign.”
Final points were: City of Cambridge 213, Harrow and Wealdstone 203, Harlow 175, Griffins 169, Wandsworth 159, Potters Bar 120.