Bicester swim stars make flying start to County Championships

Oliver Inness, William Whitley, Freddie Ashley-Sparks and Ben Inness from Bicester Blue Fins won medley relay gold
Oliver Inness, William Whitley, Freddie Ashley-Sparks and Ben Inness from Bicester Blue Fins won medley relay gold

The British Gas ASA Oxfordshire & North Buckinghamshire County Swimming Championships are underway and Bicester Blue Fins’ young swim stars have made a flying start.

The event takes place over four weekends in January and February at the Bletchley and Aylesbury pools, with the first set of relays and long-distance events completing last weekend.

Bicester’s national champion Kieran Bird made the perfect start for the club in the grueling 1,500m freestyle. There are no age group winners in this event, but 15-year old Bird swam a tactically brilliant race to become the county junior champion of all ages 16 and under in a time of 16.15mins. The youngster finished second overall in the complete field of 39 swimmers.

His 15-year-old counterpart Tom Thornley also responded to the intense pressure to finish fourth overall and third in the junior competition.

The remaining Bicester finishers in this race were Josh Rowland (eighth), William Whitley (15th), Oliver Inness (20th) and Freddie Ashley-Sparks (33rd).

The opening 4x50m relay events also took place and the A team of Oliver Inness, William Whitley, Freddie Ashley-Sparks and Ben Inness had an outstanding competition in the 13-14 age category.

The Blue Fins quartet stormed to a magnificent gold by 2.5 seconds over a strong squad from City of Oxford in the medley, which they then followed with an excellent silver in the freestyle relay after finishing just seven hundredths of second behind first.

In the 800m freestyle event, 15-year-old Ellie Falkner was in exceptional form. In a tight race with swimmers from Oxford, Milton Keynes and Aylesbury, she claimed the bronze medal in a time of 9.23.55mins and was a well-deserved runner-up in the junior competition.

Blue Fins’ other eight girls all impressed in the 69-swimmer event, with Sinead Vine-Nealon finishing 15th (third in the 15-year category), Lottie Wynne-Jones’ 17th place made her the fastest in the 12-year category, Maddy Powell was 28th (second in the 12-year category), Chloe Wanless 31st, Olivia Ashley-Sparks 41st, Alice Gravett 51st, Charlotte Inness 53rd and Ciara Connick-Linley 61st.

The results mean Bicester lie in second place overall after the first weekend of competition.

Commenting on his squad’s impressive opening weekend in the championships, Bicester Blue Fins head coach Struan McNeil said: “This was a great start to our County Championships campaign.

“It’s a sign of how much the club is moving forward that we’ve had a 15 per cent increase in the number of accepted entries into this year’s events, and to end the first weekend lying in second place in the points overall is very positive.

“We’re definitely punching above our weight against the big city squad opposition. Blue Fins are on the march and we’re targeting more medals than ever before over the next month”.

The championships resume this weekend at Aylesbury’s Aqua Vale pool with the middle distance individual events and girls relays.