The Sevenoaks A Team swimmers were celebrating again this year before their Christmas break as they heard they had qualified for a second year for the prestigious National Arena League Final in Cardiff – last year they qualified for the first time in 100 years so to hear they had managed this feat for a consecutive year was a special moment. An amazing achievement for this small town’s swimmers who will be pitching their talent against those from some of the biggest cities in the UK.
The final of the 3 rounds saw the A team once again face the same rivals as last year: Guildford City, City of Oxford, Thanet, Bromley and hosts Wycombe.
The night was full of anticipation with the Sevenoaks swimmers along with the crowds of supporters from each club turning up the volume to provide the electric atmosphere.
The relays, always exciting, gave opening opportunities for the swimmers to shine. The 9-11yrs girls and U15 girls freestyle as well as the U13 boys medley teams managed show stopping performances in order to win their respective races.
Next was the turn of the youngest age group 10/11 yrs girls backstroker Millie Armstrong with a comprehensive 1st place. Twins, Isabella and Eva Okaro were in superb form again this year, both winning their races in the (10/11yrs) 50m butterfly and 50m breaststroke with Eva also smashing the field in the 10/11 yrs 50m Freestyle. Nathan Rodrigues once again proved his talent in the U15 100m freestyle where he has been unbeaten in all three rounds. Louis Hayes was also a winner for Sevenoaks in both the 100m U13 Fly and Freestyle races. With plenty at stake it was fabulous to see Jacob Hudson (U13 100m breaststroke) and Millie Childs (U13 100m backstroke) produce excellent swims to secure all important 2nd places and youngster Albert Whitlock pull off a great PB for a sound 3rd place in boys 10/11yrs 50m breaststroke.
Having watched the results tightening the final round of relays kicked off with a wonderful 1st place for the 10/11 yrs girls medley as well as the U13 boys freestyle relay.
Special mentions must go the following swimmers who produced stand out swims of the night:
Eva Okaro who swam one of the fastest swims ever recorded for an 11 yr old in 100m Fly in the Open Age group where her rival swimmers averaged age 17!
Olly Coote (14) fresh from the B team, truly stepped up to the plate with an outstanding PB in U15 100m Breaststroke.
Zoe Naylor-Perrot (14) who swam 59.65 in U15 100m freestyle, her first-time sub 1 minute.
Overall results: 1st Guildford 222, 2nd Oxford 193, 3rd Wycombe 191, 4th Thanet 157, 5th Sevenoaks 153, 6th Bromley 132.
Meanwhile the B Team swimmers had a journey to Hastings for a night of exciting swimming in the final of the East Division against all A Team Clubs from Crawley, Maidstone, Chelmsford, Mid Sussex Marlins as well as the hosts Hastings.
With a very young team, aged predominantly 15 & under over the three galas, it was a huge achievement for them to gain a place in the final against such prestigious teams with almost all swimmers needing to swim up age groups. The youngest girls (9-11 yrs) once again proved themselves as formidable winning both the Freestyle and Medley relays with all 4 team members (Daisy McMillan, Samriddhi Das, Emily Brown and Isla Murphy) swimming strongly. Emily Brown also proved her metal in the 10/11yrs 50m Breaststroke race producing another win.
Amy Farthing and Hamish Wyatt, the only Open age swimmers swimming in the correct age group, proved their worth bringing in great results with second places for both: Amy in the 200IM and Hamish (having travelled 5 hrs to race for Sevenoaks) showing he’s retained his skill in the 100m Breaststroke
Isla Murphy also stepped up to the plate along with Joshua Crombie to swim brilliantly for 2nd places in the 10/11 yrs 50m backstroke & 50m breaststroke respectively.
Both the U13 girls (Charlotte Prideaux, Holli Gushlow, Imogen Stoddart & Ruby Jarrett) and U13 boys (Tom Creasey, Dillon Bentley, Jaedon Lynch and Marcus Humphrey) relay teams managed fabulous swims to gain valuable points and great 3rd places for the team. Holli Gushlow also managed to swim a hard-fought race to gain an individual 3rd place in the U13 100m breaststroke along with Robert Allen (14) swimming in the U15 100m backstroke and Samriddhi Das who pulled out a wonderful PB in the girls 10/11 50m fly. Tom Creasey also dug deep and pulled out a great swim for a 12 yr old in the U13 100m backstroke.
With the above places and other strong swims from Ruby Jarrett and Dillon Bentley (both U13 100m Breaststroke) managed to secure us a finish one place up from last year. Although the team were hoping for an improvement on their ranking of 6th place, it was always going to be supremely difficult with such a young team up against seriously strong A team opposition, but the swimmers proved their worth with support and encouragement from parents and coaches (even coach Lewis Roberts dipped his toes back in the water for the men’s Open medley relay!).
Headcoach, Matt Smithhurst commented that the overriding quality shown by the swimmers was resilience. Some swimmers had only one race whereas others had up to 5 but, despite this, the teams stayed positive, came together and dug deep, race after race. Matt said, ‘In order to improve we need to sharpen our turn skills and takeovers on the relays but overall I’m hugely proud of all the swimmers in both the A & B teams and cannot wait to travel to Cardiff for the Finals. ‘