PERSHORE Swimming Club took a big step towards promotion at the weekend and maintained their 100 per cent record with an important win at Wombourne in round two of the National Arena League (West Midlands Division Three).
Currently sitting at the top of the division, Pershore faced stiff opposition in round two from other promotion-chasing clubs including Orion, Droitwich and Camp Hill – who had also had good starts in the first round of the competition – and also faced teams from Burntwood and Warley.
However, unlike round one when Pershore dominated from the start, this gala proved to be a much tougher test as a strong Orion team pushed them every step of the way.
Marie Porter got the team’s challenge underway with an excellent performance in the Ladies’ Open 200m IM, clocking 2.56.83, and Harry Sykes managed fourth in the Men’s Open event with 2.28.31.
Pershore started strongly in the relay events with early victories for the girls 9/11 years 4x50m freestyle (2.13.12), boys 9/11 years 4x50m freestyle (2.14.50) and girls 13/u 4x50m medley (2.23.98).
Second places were also recorded by the boys 13/u 4x50m medley (2.20.07) and girls 15/u 4x50m freestyle (2.07.56) and third places by the boys 15/u 4x50m freestyle (2.03.39) and Men’s Open 4x50m medley (2.11.18).
After the first ten events Pershore found themselves on 43 points, joint second with Droitwich and behind Orion who had taken an early slim lead on 45 points.
Pershore’s surge for the lead came with the start of the individual events. Megan Annis won by a clear margin in the girls 10/11 50m backstroke in 35.91 and Patrick Heeks looked equally dominant in the boys event to win in 37.09.
Hannah Simister moved closer to achieving a 2015 County Qualifying Time (CQT) in the 100m breaststroke, winning the girls 13/u event on the touch to take maximum points in 1.31.53.
Will Gearey was edged into second in the boys 13/u 100m breaststroke in 1.24.70, while Amy Weston also managed second place in the girls 15/u 100m backstroke in 1.16.42.
Despite swimming with an injured knee, Simon Sweatman showed grit and determination to win the boys 15/u 100m backstroke in 1.11.15 and Helen Annis bagged third place in the Ladies’ Open 100m fly in 1.19.17.
After 18 events Pershore had managed to claw back the lead from Orion and break clear of Droitwich, finding themselves on 83 points, just one point ahead of Orion on 82 points.
Alexandra Barry soon got Pershore back to winning ways by storming to an easy victory in the girls 10/11 50m fly in 36.17, with Heeks making it victory number two in the boys event in 37.88.
Naomi Marsden maintained the pressure on Orion, taking maximum points in the girls 13/u 100m backstroke in 1.14.77, and Sweatman – seemingly unaffected by his injury – also won the boys 13/u event in 1.13.12.
Jasmine Taite was unlucky not to win the girls 15/u 100m fly, coming second with a good performance and clocking 1.18.69, while Owen Leeks managed third place in the Men’s Open 100m backstroke in 1.13.50.
Jack Betteridge battled hard to earn fourth for Pershore in the boys 15/u 100m fly in 1.17.56, while Katie Sharratt also managed fourth in the Ladies’ Open 100m backstroke in 1.20.47.
After 26 events Pershore had extended their lead to seven points over a hard-chasing Orion, with Droitwich back in third, adrift by 27 points and out of the challenge for the overall win.
Megan Annis won her second race of the night, taking victory by over five seconds in the girls 10/11 50m breaststroke in 41.87, while Gearey took his first individual win in the boys event in dominant style in 40.03.
Amy Cooper made it three wins in a row for Pershore by putting in a strong performance in the girls 13/u 100m fly in 1.20.23 and Chris Vizard – facing one of the leading age group swimmers in the West Midlands from Orion in the boys 13/u 100m fly – produced an excellent swim to take second in 1.17.64.
Taite went one better in the girls 15/u 100m freestyle, winning in a nail-biting finish on the touch in 1.07.73, while Leeks claimed third place in the boys event in 1.08.3 and Sykes took another fourth in the Men’s Open 100m breaststroke in 1.17.49.
After 36 events Orion started to claw back Pershore’s lead to just five points, with Pershore just keeping the advantage on 158 points.
Jasmine Franks secured second in the girls 10/11 50m freestyle in 34.66 while Gearey made sure of more maximum points for Pershore by winning the boys 10/11 50m freestyle in 29.60.
Marsden managed fourth in the girls 13/u 100m freestyle in 1.13.10 but importantly edged out her Orion rival into fifth and Sweatman completed a faultless performance by winning the boys 13/u 100m freestyle in 1.05.20, turning just behind the Orion swimmer after the first 50m before powering to victory in the last 50m.
Beth Carter secured an important third place in the girls 15/u 100m breaststroke in 1.27.79 and again edged out her Orion counterpart, while Betteridge also took third in the boys event in 1.28.78.
Alice Hall and Sykes completed the individual races, with Hall clocking 1.10.86 in the Ladies’ Open 100m free and Sykes 59.59 in the Men’s event.
So, with just the relays left after 42 events, the gala was all set for a series of head-to-head races between Pershore and Orion with just two points separating the teams.
The girls 9/11 4x50m medley quartet were the first relay team in action, with Annis, Franks and Barry joined by Charlotte Downey. Annis gave the team a good lead on the backstroke, handing over to Franks on breaststroke and Barry on fly who both extended the lead, before Downey anchored the team to an easy victory in 2.38.06, leaving Orion in second.
Pershore’s boys 9/11 4x50m medley team then made it victory number two by again edging Orion into second. Heeks led off on the backstroke, giving Pershore half a length lead, with Hamish Cross and Gearey extending the lead on the breaststroke and fly respectively, leaving Kieran Cooper to power to victory in 2.34.47.
The girls 13/u 4x50m freestyle team of Simister, Marsden, Cooper and Annis proved too strong for the other teams, with Pershore winning from the front in 2.12.68 and securing more maximum points.
The boys 13/u 4x50m freestyle team of Sweatman, Gearey, Vizard and Luke Perry fought hard in their event, but had to settle for second place to Orion in 2.01.83.
The girls 15/u 4x50m medley quartet of Weston, Carter, Taite and Hope Rochelle produced excellent swims to snatch third place in 2.26.66, with Orion unlucky to be disqualified for a faulty takeover.
The boys 15/u 4x50m medley team managed to go one better, taking second in one of the most exciting finishes of the night. Taking over in third, Jones pulled back his Droitwich rival, giving Ben Clarke a chance to grab second on the anchor leg.
Clarke responded by putting in a fantastic 50m freestyle leg, hunting down the Droitwich swimmer and snatching a superb second place in 2.22.75.
With just the Ladies’ and Men’s Open 6x50m freestyle events left, Pershore could only muster fourth placed finishes in both, while Orion took two victories in both, meaning a nail-biting finish to the evening.
However, despite Orion’s late surge, Pershore held off their challenge to win with 229 points. Then came Orion on 225, Droitwich 181, Camp Hill 176, Burntwood 142 and Warley 90.