A record 17 Hemel swimmers participated in the East Region Winter Regionals at Luton over the weekend of 6th and 7th December, which was the sixth biggest representation from clubs in the whole of East Region which includes Herts, Beds, Cambs, Suffolk, Norfolk and Essex.
Highlights included Emily Jelfs becoming the first Hemel girl to swim 100 free in under a minute, two new Summer Regional qualifiers in Jack Christie (who broke the 25 second barrier for 50 free for the first time) and Josh Gaines, and 11 new Club records, many of which had only been set at Club Champs in the previous two weeks. The ladies Open 100 free record was even broken twice by different swimmers in a 5 minute spell!
Without Age Group categories Winter Regionals is effectively an Open competition so extremely tough with many top National swimmers in action from clubs in the region. This was particularly the case in the men’s events where Martin Walton of Hatfield a swimmer with podium potential funding for future Olympics was in action throughout the weekend. That said Hemel Hempstead swimmers showed great belief and put in some extremely strong performances, with the majority improving significantly on their rankings going into the competition.
Emily Jelfs and Aimee Abrey led the way setting three new Club records each; Emily in the 50, 100 and 200 freestyle (the 50 and 100 being open as well as age group records and the 100 free at 59.82 being the first time any Hemel girl has broken the 1 minute barrier) and Aimee in the 50, 100 and 200 back – all three being both age group and open records.
Lois Moore also broke Emily’s previous 100 Freestyle Open record in a time of 1.00.20 only for Emily to regain it two heats later with her sub minute swim. Lois’s time of 27.82 for the 50 Freestyle also made her only the second Hemel girl ever to break the 28 second barrier. Lois set age group records in the 50 and 100 free whilst Grace Rayner and Freddie Woodcock set new open records in the 50 breast and back respectively.
Finally in the individual events Head Coach Justin Langford retook his Club open 50 fly record which had been taken from him by Freddie Woodcock during Club Champs in what looks like it could develop into an interesting tussle in the weeks ahead!
In the relays the men’s 4 x 100 Freestyle team team of Freddie Woodcock, Matt Sherriff, Tom Sherriff and Jack Christie took an impressive fifth and with Charlie Rayner replacing Matt Sherriff in the 4 x100 Medley they took seventh. The Ladies relay team of Aimee Abrey, Grace Rayner Aimee Abrey & Lois Moore meanwhile came eighth in the Medley Relay and sixth in the 4 x100 free. Both the men’s and ladies teams were narrowly outside of achieving medal positions in the relays in close events.
Other Hemel swimmers in action throughout the course of weekend were Paige Wilding, Rachel Barber, Josh Frewin, Tom Frewin, Bethany Masters and Molly McLoughlin.
Hemel Hempstead already has 18 qualifiers for Summer Regionals in May next year including a number of first time qualifiers. This exceeds last year’s total of swimmers and events significantly already. With many swimmers also near to qualifying times and four months until the qualifying window shuts it looks like being an exciting few months ahead.