Twenty-two of Bicester Blue Fins’ most junior swimmers were put to the test at the Amersham Novice Gala.
Intended for swimmers with little or no competitive team experience, the gala provides valuable practice of properly officiated races in front of a significant gallery audience.
With squads spread across three age groups – under 9, 10 and 11 – the gala comprises freestyle and medley relays, individual swims across the four strokes and a mixed ‘squadron’ relay made up of the fastest girl and boy from each of the three age groups.
Competing against Blue Fins were teams from Hillingdon, Maidenhead, Henley, Berkamstead and Amersham.
Bicester’s U10 boys were in scintillating form, securing all four of the club’s wins. Harry Wynne-Jones and Zac Powell swam up an age category and combined with Freddy Bunce and Matthew Cooper to win the 4x25m freestyle relay by a clear two seconds, and that was followed by victory in the 4x25m medley relay.
In the individual races, Bunce stormed to victory in the 50m freestyle in a personal best time of 38.03, while Wynne-Jones won the U9 25m butterfly, also in a new PB of 18.60.
For the girls, the U10 4x25m medley team of Maddie Neal, Millie Houston, Olivia Warfolk and Charlotte Kemp came second, with Kemp then joining the U11 4x25m freestyle team alongside Molly Ward, Lauren McKenzie and Charlotte Hiles, who finished second.
Also swimming were Isla Bohannon, Mya Clifford, Imogen Cox, William Gibson-Sexton, Edward Jolliffe, William Jones, Harry Maggs, William Roberts and Tommy Wright.
The final event was the 6x25m mixed squadron freestyle relay, comprising the fastest boy and girl from each of the three age categories.
As this race begun, the overall standings were tight, with Bicester lying sixth overall, but a monumental effort under intense pressure from Olivia Jordan, Harry Wynne-Jones, Charlotte Kemp, Freddy Bunce, Molly Ward and William Pluckrose saw them finish third in an exciting and closely-fought race, only two tenths of a second off second.
The result earned Bicester enough points to climb above Maidenhead and Henley in the standings and finish fourth.
Coach James Lloyd said: “There were some fantastic swims tonight and a great poolside team atmosphere.
“For many youngsters this was their first taste of competitive gala swimming, and the experience acts as a stepping stone for many of them into the club’s Milton Keynes & District junior squad that had its best ever season this year.
“They were up against a number of quality swimmers from some of the biggest and best clubs in the region, so can feel rightly proud with a fourth place finish overall.
“I’m certainly proud of the effort they put in and am excited for what they can go on and achieve in the future.”