Brilliant Blue Fins dazzle in second gala of National League

Bicester Blue Fins celebrate after a successful gala in Worcester
Bicester Blue Fins celebrate after a successful gala in Worcester
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Bicester Blue Fins returned to Worcester for the second round gala in the National Arena League Premier Division.

Having won the first gala last month, the Bicester Village sponsored squad of 26 swimmers from ages 10 to adult was pitted against the current champions from Boldmere, as well as stiff opposition from hosts Worcester, Stourbridge, Long Eaton and Cannock.

And the team were again in excellent form as they recorded 11 wins and nine club records to now lie seventh in their first year in the top flight.

There was an early victory in the relays for the 13-year boys’ 4x50m medley team of Oliver Inness, William Whitley, Freddie Ashley-Sparks and Ben Inness, beating the strong Boldmere squad into second by over three seconds.

There were two solid second place finishes for Callum Laird, Kieran Bird, Josh Rowland and Tom Thornley in the 15-year 4x50m freestyle and medley relay, while another excellent second came from the 11-year 4x50m medley team of Alexandra Pluckrose, Maddy Powell, Lottie Wynne-Jones and Eveena Shah.

In the individual events, Lottie Wynne-Jones was again in dazzling form to match her three wins in the first gala. She first took victory in the 50m backstroke before storming to the 50m butterfly by over four seconds. The 11-year-old also swam up an age group to secure the 13-year 100m butterfly and slice over two seconds off the club age group record.

Tom Thornley broke the overall club 100m backstroke record twice on his way to his two gala wins. His first record came by winning the 15-year-old event, the only swimmer to finish under a minute, before he won in the open category.

Fellow 15-year-old Kieran Bird won both the 100m butterfly, where he set a new club record, and the breaststroke.

Ellie Falkner was also in fine form. She won both the 100m butterfly and 100m freestyle, while Bicester’s 11th victory came from breaststroke swimmer William Whitley.

Tabitha Watkins secured valuable points with a second place in the backstroke and third in the breaststroke.

There were also individual second place swims from Oliver Inness, Maddy Powell and Christopher Littleton, while Sinead Vine-Nealon swam well in the 100m backstroke,

Also playing their part in an immense team effort were Olivia Ashley-Sparks, Cameron Digman, Alice Gravett, Charlotte Inness, Sean Lock, Liam O’Brien, Jack Rowland, Chloe Wanless, Melissa White and Tom Whitley.

After 50 events, the final standings were: 1. Boldmere, 248pts; 2. Worcester, 178; 3. Bicester Blue Fins, 177; 4. Stourbridge, 152; 5. Chase, 148 points; 6. Long Eaton A, 142.

The result meant Blue Fins missed out on the final gala of the top six clubs, but it still represents a best ever performance of seventh place in the Premier League.

Head coach Struan McNeil said: “After winning the opening gala in our first year in the Premier League they achieved the right to compete against the reigning champions, and to grab 11 wins and come away with a solid third place is all we could have asked of them.

“All 26 swimmers should feel proud in securing valuable points for their team-mates, but I was also impressed with their level of focus and commitment towards this extreme challenge. The season is getting better and better, and I’m confident the squad’s best is yet to come!”

The final gala of this year’s league is on December 13.