Hemel Hempstead Swimming Club began this year’s Peanuts League campaign in dominant fashion with two decisive victories in the first round. Competing in Division One, the Blue team beat Hatfield into second place, making clear their intention to win back the championship title they lost last year.
Swimming at their home pool, alongside the Red team, the atmosphere was electric. Hemel swimmers and supporters raised the roof with their applause and chanting in a display of solidarity and team spirit to match the quality of the racing. And whilst these two teams toughed it out at the top of the league, the White team notched up an overall win in their Division Three gala at Borehamwood.
Altogether, the evening produced a grand combined total of 25 wins and a staggering 111 new best times. There were many outstanding swims, but Hemel’s success owed much, as ever, to their depth of talent in the relays. The Blue team won over half their relay races. The 9 year-old girls – Lucy Hutchins, Fiona Cox, Ellen Fender and Alisha Kan – and the 9 year boys – Michael Woods, Tom Worrell, Kyle Holmes and Jonty Bier-Allen – showed fantastic promise in their first Peanuts outing. Both foursomes won their freestyle relays. The boys triumphed again in the medley relay, with the girls coming in second.
In the u11 boys, Connor Worthington swam a personal best in the final leg of the medley relay, with teammates Louis Dunham, Connor Parker and Peter Kennett all claiming best times in the freestyle relay to come third. Paige Wilding (u11) worked hard all evening, swimming a total of six races, including two for the u12’s relays, in which she helped Hannah Bagley, Devon Prior and Kelsey Doyle to secure two valuable wins. The u12 and u13 boys proved as invincible as ever, maintaining their unbeaten record from last year and coming home in first place by a considerable margin in all four relays.
Meanwhile, the Red squad dug deep to try and defend their unique position as the only second team strong enough to compete in the First Division. They finished in sixth place after a valiant effort. Thomas Sherriff (u13), coming back after a long illness, swam a gutsy 50m freestyle to touch home in second place. He was joined in the relays by brother Matthew (u12), swimming up an age group, Connor Reynolds and Conrad Bier-Allen. Conrad got off to a blinding start on the backstroke leg of the medley relay, with Thomas holding onto second place in the breaststroke and Connor storming the fly. Matthew managed to keep the momentum going to claim third place. The boys came third in the freestyle relay too, with Conrad also scoring a third in his individual backstroke with a personal best time.
The squadron, at the end of the evening, proved a test of courage for 9 year-olds Aimee Abrey and Thomas Kelly in the Red team and Alisha Kan and Jonty Bier-Allen in the Blue team, who all stepped up heroically to the challenge of the 50m race amongst roars of support from the crowd. Meanwhile, over in Borehamwood, the relays again proved crucial to Hemel’s overall result. The u11 boys team of Jacob Hutchings, Lewis Beardsworth, Thomas King and James Mellish won the freestyle relay and the u12’s team of Ross Jenkins, Nathan Stearn, Sam Acors and Matthew Hall took both the medley relay and the freestyle.
The 9 year-old girls team of Emily Jells, Yewande Bankole, Lauren Gray and Isabel Sherwani pulled out all the stops in the special medley relay to finish second, with a personal best time for Emily. With no 9 year-old boys available for competition, the team incurred three automatic DQ’s by swimming older boys down. Despite this disadvantage, the team pulled together to bring home a great overall victory. It was a demonstration of the determination and team spirit shown by all Hemel’s swimmers on the night, leaving the opposition in no doubt that this year, they really mean business.