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By Tony Sollis Tuesday 13 November 2012 Updated: 13/11 19:30
STRATFORD SHARKS consolidated their first position in the Arena National League with an outstanding win in the second round at Stafford.
With the other clubs fielding high class teams, Sharks' swimmers needed to be on top form to fight off their challenge.
After a strong start in the first quarter, the team had slipped to fourth place by the mid-point of the gala. However, four first places in the second half of the individual races and top three places in five out of the last eight team races saw Sharks pull clear to win by 15 points.
Ailsa Gavan McHarg’s PB in the 200m Individual Medley saw her beaten into third place in a fingertip finish. Then, in the men's race, Josh Walker took fourth place in a race where every swimmer swam inside the Midlands qualifying time.
Top three places, in seven of the eight age-group relays that followed, gave Sharks an early lead. In the 4 x 50m Freestyle relay Madeleine Hoare, Isabelle Foster, Olivia Clayton and Hannah Lythgo fought off a late challenge to hold on to second place in the eleven year olds’ race.
After a race long duel in the boys’ race, Michael Allen was beaten into third place by just two tenths after a strong start by Tom Beamer followed by Nick Evans and Andrew Hall.
Another close finish in the 13 year olds girls’ Medley Relay saw Sophie Wootton, Lucy Griffiths, Seren Mahon and Kathryn Lythgo beaten into fourth by just over one tenth of a second. But Chris Clements, William Foster, Gregor Kelling and Robin Hughes fought hard to be adjudged second in what appeared to be a dead heat.
Just one second covered the first three places in the fifteen year old girls’ 4 x 50m Freestyle relays but Lucy Castle, Ailsa Gavan McHarg, Ellen Price and Kathryn Lythgo were dominant. However, the boys’ race was far more open with Sandy Forysiak, Will Foster, Ed Caswell and Joshua Martindale taking a clear second place.
Sophie Warden, Lucy Griffiths, Ailsa Gavan McHarg swam strongly in the first three legs of the Ladies’ Open 4 x 50m medley relay, leaving Lucy Tame to fight hard in the last leg to take second place.
In the Men's race, Andrew Morley and Sandy Forysiak set a blistering pace with their respective backstroke and breaststroke legs. Then, after a storming butterfly leg by Jacob Humphreys, Josh Walker powered through the final 50m freestyle leg to a dead heat for third place.
With such strong opposition, the eighteen top three places from the thirty two individual events that followed would prove extremely important in the overall standings.
Madeleine Hoare’s PB performance, in the 50m backstroke, scored an excellent second place by just six hundredths of a second. Then, later, she fought off another strong challenge to win the 50m Freestyle.
Ailsa Gavan McHarg annihilated the competition to win the 100m Butterfly and Will Foster did the same in the 100m Freestyle. He also took a clear second place in the 100m breaststroke.
Fifteen year olds Lucy Castle and Sandy Forysiak outclassed their opposition in the 100m Freestyle, then Sandy went on to take a clear second place in the 100m breaststroke and Lucy a third place in the 100m backstroke.
Lucy Griffiths was third in the thirteen year olds’ 100m breaststroke and then 'swam up' in the 15/under age group to take another third place.
Ten year old Tom Beamer made his third place in the 50m backstroke and Olivia Clayton third in the eleven year olds’ 50m breaststroke. Josh Walker also powered to a third place in a close finish in the 100m backstroke.
Ed Caswell (100m backstroke), Jacob Humphreys (100m butterfly) and Isobel Foster (50m butterfly) all swam new PB performances to score more points for the team.
Robust swimming by Lucy Tame and Joshua Walker in their respective 100m open freestyle events saw them both take second places in exciting, fingertip finishes, closing out the individual race section and leaving Sharks in overall first place by just seven points.
With just eight team races to go, every point would count in the final reckoning, and advice from the coaching team and the very vocal encouragement from the travelling supporters proved crucial.
The 11/under girls’ team of Hoare, Clayton, Foster and Lythgo responded by taking another second place, this time in the 4 x 50m Medley Relay.
The boys’ team of Beamer, Evans, Allen and Hall added further points with third place in their race.
Thirteen year olds, Lythgo, Griffiths, Wootton and Mahon added another third place in the 4 x 50m Freestyle while Foster, Clements, Hughes and Kelling went one better with a clear second place in their race.
In the 15/under 4 x 50m Medley, the boys’ team of Caswell, Forysiak, Martindale and Clements swam strongly but were beaten by a fingertip into third place.
Outstanding wins by two girls’ teams added maximum points. In the 15/under 4 x 50m Medley Relays the team of Castle, Griffiths, Gavan McHarg and Price were powered to a clear win and then, in the final Ladies’ race, Tame, Gavan McHarg, Warden, Price, Wootton and Castle were well clear of the field in the 6 x 50m Freestyle race.
In the final race of the evening, the open 6 x 50m freestyle race, fourth place from the men's team of Walker, Caswell, Humphreys, Foster, Morley and Forysiak was enough to secure an overall win for Stratford Sharks by fifteen points over the very strong teams from City of Derby, Solihull and Kingsbury.
A second win in the Arena National League, especially against such high quality opposition, is just reward for the team members’ dedication to their intensive training programme.
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