Bicester Blue Fins have finished second in their first season in the National Arena League Premier Division after coming second in the third and final gala at Worcester.
After a victory and third place in the first two galas, the Bicester Village-sponsored squad of 30 swimmers from age nine to adult was pitted against local rivals Abingdon Vale, Leicester Penguins, City of Hereford, Belper Marlins and Redditch.
First up, the 11-year-old girls relay team continued their impressive form with two more victories. Lottie Wynne-Jones, Maddy Powell, Alexandra Pluckrose and Eveena Shah combined to storm both the 4x50m freestyle and medley events.
The girls’ effort was then matched by the 15-year-old boys quartet of Tom Thornley, Kieran Bird, Callum Laird and Josh Rowland.
The 13-year-old team of Oliver Inness, William Whitley, Freddie Ashley-Sparks and Ben Inness claimed second in both the 4x50m medley and freestyle events before Lottie Wynne-Jones won the 50m butterfly by two clear seconds and then the 50m backstroke in a Blue Fins age group record time of 33.28 seconds. She also swam up an age category and finished second in the 13-year 100m butterfly.
Tom Thornley again showed why he’s one of the country’s most talented young swimmers with comfortable victories in the 100m backstroke and 100m freestyle.
Oliver Inness also continued his best ever season by taking victory in the 100m backstroke and 100m butterfly, while Ellie Faulkner equalled the club age group record of 1.00.55mins on her way to victory in the ladies open 100m freestyle event.
Blue Fins’ other individual victory came from 15-year old-Kieran Bird, who won the 100m butterfly by more than four seconds, as well as finishing second in the open category and the 100m breaststroke.
Nine-year-old Harry Wynne-Jones impressed when he recorded a new club age group record of 40.69 in the backstroke leg of the 11-year-old 4x50m medley relay, while William Whitley, Sinead Vine-Nealon and Maddy Powell all clinched second places.
The final event of a thrilling gala was the men’s squadron 6x50m freestyle relay, which saw Ryan Steward, Andrew Smith, Jack Rowland, Liam O’Brien, Tom Thornley and Kieran Bird storm to victory by three seconds in 2.31.73, a new club record.
The other swimmers who all played their part were Olivia Ashley-Sparks, Edward Davis, Cameron Digman, Alice Gravett, Christopher Littleton, Charlotte Inness, Joe Walker, Chloe Wanless, Tabitha Watkins, Melissa White and Tom Whitley.
After 50 events, Bicester finished second, just 13 points behind winners City of Hereford. The result meant Blue Fins maintained a highest ever position in their first season in the Premier League.
Head Coach Struan McNeil said: “The coaching team is so pleased that our swimmers stepped up to finish second in this tough final gala under intense pressure.
“For our small club to battle against city clubs such as Hereford and finish in the top third of the Premier League overall is frankly remarkable. Each and every one of our swimmers played their part in this huge team effort and created history for our club.
“This sets the squad up perfectly for our next challenge – four weekends of the Oxfordshire & North Bucks County Championships starting next month. Last season set a new standard for the Blue Fins and we’re on track for even higher achievements in 2015.”