PERSHORE Swimming Club snatched promotion to Division Two of the National Arena League in dramatic fashion at Stechford Cascades Pool in Birmingham as they edged out Midlands rivals Orion by a single point.
Pershore went into the third and final round of the Division Three gala in second place, with Orion (South Birmingham) top of the league and favourites to secure the title and promotion.
Harry Sykes got Pershore’s challenge off to a strong start, taking third place in the men’s open 200m IM in 2.23.97. This was soon followed by excellent wins for both the girls and boys 11/u 4x50m freestyle relay teams, with both putting in dominant performances.
The boys 13/u 4x50m medley team managed to hold off a strong late challenge from Orion to ensure victory number three for Pershore.
Megan Annis won by a clear margin in the girls 11/u 50m backstroke in 35.33, as did Patrick Heeks who also secured the win in the boys event in 36.99.
Isabella Woodcock took second in the girls 13/u 100m breaststroke in 1.26.94, while Will Gearey powered to victory in the boys 13/u 100m breaststroke in 1.21.82.
Amy Weston, swimming a couple of age groups up, continued to the pressure on Orion, with an excellent win in the girls 15/u 100m backstroke in 1.14.16. Simon Sweatman, also swimming up in the boys event, found himself up against some strong opponents, but still managed to secure a fantastic third place in 1.10.53.
After ten events, Orion were ahead on 44 points, with Pershore second on 37, Cheadle 34, Droitwich Dolphins 32, Haden Hill 30 and Stourbridge B 29.
Alexandra Barry put in a strong performance in the girls 11/u 50m fly, winning comfortably in 36.71, while Heeks made sure of his second individual win, taking the boys event in 36.74.
Naomi Marsden showed excellent form in the girls 13/u 100m backstroke, taking maximum points for Pershore in 1.15.02, and Sweatman proved his class in the boys event, winning by over five seconds in 1.12.28.
Trio in contention
After 18 events, the gala looked to between three clubs, with Orion remaining in first place with 75 points, Pershore only one point behind on 74 and Cheadle back on 67 points.
Jasmine Taite pushed hard in the girls 15/u 100m fly to grab an essential third place in 1.18.43, while Jack Betteridge and Angus Jones battled hard to get amongst the points in the boys 100m fly and 100m backstroke events respectively. Taite also took third in the 15/u 100m freestyle in 1.07.36.
Hannah Woodcock got Pershore back to winning ways by taking first place in the girls 11/u 50m breaststroke in 43.25 and Gearey won his second individual race with a dominant win in the boys 11/u 50m breaststroke in 39.70.
Chris Vizard produced a massive personal best and secured maximum points in the most exciting race of the night with victory in the 13/u 100m fly on the touch in 1.14.30. Amy Cooper kept Pershore’s points tally ticking over with a well deserved third place in the girls event in 1.17.81.
After 26 events, Pershore had finally managed to overtake Orion, moving up to first place on 108 points, with their title rivals back on 105 and Cheadle on 99 points.
Sykes took third place in the open 100m breaststroke in 1.13.66, while 14-year-old Beth Carter managed an essential fourth place in the girls open event in 1.24.17. Carter then went one better in the 15/u 100m breaststroke, claiming third in 1.27.67.
Annis, one of the fastest 50m freestyle age group swimmers in the Midlands, never looked in trouble in the 11/u 50m freestyle, winning easily in 30.87, and Gearey made it a hat-trick of wins by taking gold in a steady time of 31.80.
Marsden managed third place in the 13/u 100m freestyle in a great time of 1.11.17, while Sweatman was edged into second by a very powerful Orion swimmer in the boys event in 1.02.46.
Cooper (13) was soon in action again, this time competing in the open 100m freestyle. Despite the massive age gap, Cooper did not let this faze her and she set a new personal best of 1.06.62 for a superb third place. Sykes rounded off the team’s individual performances with another third place, this time in the open 100m in 59.98.
With just the relay events left to complete, Pershore had extended their lead to six points over Orion, sitting in first place on 142, with Orion on 136 and Cheadle now out of the running on 128 points.
With the noise from the crowd reaching fever pitch, Pershore got off to a great start in the first event, storming to a win in the girls 11/u 4x50m medley to extend their lead.
However, disaster struck for the boys 11/u medley team who were unlucky to be disqualified despite winning by a massive margin, handing victory to Orion to eat into Pershore’s lead.
Wins for both the girls and boys 13/u 4x50m freestyle team and second place for the girls 15/u 4x50m medley team helped Pershore’s cause.
Pershore managed third places in the boys 15/u 4x50m medley and the ladies’ open 6x50m freestyle relays, meaning the gala result rested on the last race.
With Orion favourites to win the open 6x50m freestyle relay, Pershore needed to get fourth place or better to secure the win. The final leg saw Pershore battling with Haden Hill for fourth place and the result was settled on the touch with Pershore clocking 2.50.34 and Haden 2.50.47.
The final overall points were Pershore 211, Orion 210, Cheadle 178, Droitwich 154, Stourbridge B 152 and Haden Hill 137 points.
Commenting on the performance, Pershore’s head coach Tom Naughton said: “It was an absolutely thrilling night of swimming and all credit to Orion for an excellent battle.
“We can now look forward to competing in Division Two next season, which will certainly throw up some new challenges for us!”