Bicester Bluefins - Round Three 2014

•    Town’s swimmers finish second against big city squad opposition
•    13 wins, 11 second places and 6 club records set in tough six squad battle
•    Club clinches 8th place overall in league – a significant achievement in first year in top flight

Bicester Blue Fins returned to Worcester for the third and final gala in this year’s National Arena League Premier Division. After a victory and third place in the first two galas, the Bicester Village sponsored squad of 30 swimmers from age nine to adult was pitted against local rivals Abingdon Vale, as well as stiff opposition from Leicester Penguins, City of Hereford, Belper Marlins and Redditch.

The Girls age 11 relay team continued their impressive run in this year’s league with two more victories. Lottie Wynne-Jones, Maddy Powell, Alexandra Pluckrose and Eveena Shah combined to storm both the 4x50m Freestyle and Medley events – the latter with a 6 second winning margin. Also stunning the opposition with back-to-back wins in the 4x50m Freestyle and Medley relays was the Boys age 15 team of Tom Thornley, Kieran Bird, Callum Laird and Josh Rowland.

The Boys age 13 relay team of Oliver Inness, William Whitley, Freddie Ashley-Sparks and Ben Inness also performed well against stiff opposition, battling to second place in both the 4x50m Medley and Freestyle events.

In the individual races 11 year old Lottie Wynne-Jones again blew away the opposition. She won the 50m Butterfly by two clear seconds, and the 50m Backstroke in a club age group record time of 33.28 seconds. She’s won these two events at all three league galas this season, and in a further sign of her form on the night her 29.82 seconds in the opening leg of the Girls age 11 4x50m Freestyle relay also broke the club age group record. She also swam up an age category and finished second in the age 13 100m Butterfly.

Fresh from his blistering performance at the South East Winter Regionals, Tom Thornley again showed why he’s one of the hottest prospects around. He won both the Boys age 15 100m Backstroke with a three second margin, as well as the 100m Freestyle events. He set a new club age group record of 25.53 seconds in the opening leg of the Boys age 15 4x50m Freestyle Relay, and swam up to the Open category and came third in a tight 100m Backstroke race.

Thirteen year old Oliver Inness continued his best ever season with two impressive victories. He stormed the 100m Backstroke with a winning margin of over four and half seconds, and then took first place in the 100m Butterfly.

Ellie Falkner was also in fine form. She equalled the Bicester club age group record of 1:00.55 on the way to victory in the Ladies Open 100m Freestyle, plus had two solid second places in the Girls age 15 100m Butterfly and 100m Freestyle events.

Blue Fins’ other individual victory came from 15 year old Kieran Bird. He won the Boys 15 year 100m Butterfly by over four seconds. He also swam up an age group and came a credible second in the Open category of the same stroke, and was also just touched into second place in the 15 year 100m Breaststroke.

There was a notable swim from 9 year old Harry Wynne-Jones making his squad debut, claiming the club age group record of 40.69 seconds for the Backstroke leg of the Boys 11 year 4x50m Medley Relay. Also securing valuable points with good individual second place swims were William Whitley in both the 100m Breaststroke and Freestyle, Sinead Vine-Nealon in the 100m Backstroke and Maddy Powell in the 50m Freestyle.

The final event in a thrilling gala was the Men’s ‘Squadron’ 6x50m Freestyle Relay. Ryan Steward, Andrew Smith, Jack Rowland, Liam O’Brien, Tom Thornley and Kieran Bird joined forces to create the strongest relay team Blue Fins has ever put together. Among exciting scenes, they didn’t disappoint and stormed to victory by a clear three seconds in 2.31.73, a new club record, and a fitting result given the superb three galas the small Bicester squad has had this year.

The other swimmers who all played their part in an immense team effort were Olivia Ashley-Sparks, Edward Davis, Cameron Digman, Alice Gravett, Christopher Littleton, Charlotte Inness, Joe Walker, Chloe Wanless, Tabitha Watkins, Melissa White and Tom Whitley.

 After 50 tough and hard fought events, Bicester finished second overall. The final scores were 1st City of Hereford (206 points), 2nd Bicester Blue Fins (193 points), 3rd Abingdon Vale (179 points), 4th  Belper Marlin (163 points), 5th Redditch (157 points) and 6th Leicester Penguins (146 points). The result meant Blue Fins maintained a highest ever position in only their first season in the National Premier League.

Head Coach Struan McNeil commented: “The coaching team is so pleased that our swimmers stepped up to finish second in this tough final gala under intense pressure. For our small club to battle against city clubs such as Hereford and finish in the top third of the premier league overall is frankly remarkable. Each and every one of our swimmers played their part in this huge team effort and created history for our club.  

“This sets-up the squad perfectly for our next challenge, four weekends of the Oxfordshire & North Bucks County Championships starting next month. Last season set a new standard for Bicester Blue Fins and we’re on track for even higher achievements in 2015.”