Regional Championship racing commenced, on the Friday evening of a hot and sunny bank holiday weekend. Both Guildford City Swimming Club and University of Surrey’s youth and older age group swimmers competed at Wycombe, with unprecedented success, in what was to become the most successful championship weekend Guildford City have ever had, claiming 49 medals and finishing top of the medals table. Even more remarkable was the fact that this was without the University of Surrey’s medal haul of 8 medals.
The first events of the weekend saw several swimmers enter the unchartered territory of swimming the female 1500m and male 800m events, now that these have been introduced to the swim programme. The female event produced a silver medal for Genevieve Moller-Butcher and a bronze medal, together with a new club record 17.27.84 for Ellenor Rixon, placing her high on the British rankings for this event.
Day two arrived with much anticipation, as the 4x200m freestyle relay events injected some excitement and great team spirit with everyone supporting both the University of Surrey and Guildford City teams. The 14-16 girls kicked off events with a win for the A team and a fourth place for the B team, whilst in the Open age event, both the Guildford City team and University of Surrey team picked up medals, an unprecedented achievement for the University of Surrey team. Once the precedent was set, the male relays also saw victory for the 14-16 boys and another bronze medal for the University of Surrey team, in one of the most nail-biting races of the weekend, with Chris Finch overcoming a three and a half second deficit on the anchor leg to claim the medal, from the City of Oxford team, by 0.01 seconds.
Aside from the relays, the heats on the second day saw Rory Huggins, swimming for University of Surrey; achieve a lifetime best of 1.53.56 seconds for the 200m freestyle event, the first time he had gone below the 1.55.00 mark.
The day was rounded off with a finals session which surpassed all expectations. Once again there were some unbelievably close finishes with Luke Pullen, Alex Armstrong and Ollie Bedworth securing gold medals on their final strokes in the 100m backstroke (Luke and Alex) and 100m breaststroke (Ollie) events.
Gold medals went to Caroline Laurson and Alicia Wilson (100m freestyle), Charlie Trotman (100m breaststroke) and Rory Huggins (200 freestyle). Other medallists included Tilly Hansen-Hamilton, Toby Stewart, Ciara Walsh, Tatiana Belonogoff and a first ever regional medal (bronze) for Charlotte Moores, who only joined the club at the start of 2018. Agonisingly there were also numerous fourth places finishes including, club captain, Ben Rowett, Toby Stewart and Paige Coombes.
Female 4x100m medley relay event heralded the start of day three and success was realised very quickly as the Guildford City senior ladies team of Alicia Wilson, Tatiana Belonogoff, Ciara Walsh and Ellenor Rixon, won the event by a considerable distance. The 14-16 girls team finished fifth against some strong opposition; however, this should be enough to qualify the team for the National Age Group Swimming Championships which will take place at the end of July.
Day three heats provided some good race modelling practice for many swimmers, although Luca Fankhauser was not expecting to have to swim twice in the 50m butterfly event, a heat and then a swim-off, which he won by 0.03 seconds, to qualify for the final.
The male 50m butterfly event was, in fact, the first event of the finals session and this provided some unexpected medals, not least of which came from Yahia Makky, another new recruit to Guildford City, who took the 16 year old age group title winning from lane one #outsidesmoker. Ethan Habgood also collected his first ever regional medal (bronze) in the 15 year old age group and Chris Finch, swimming for the University of Surrey, snatched a silver medal in the senior category, in a personal best time which also secured scholarship funding for the 2018/2019 season.
Gold medals and regionals titles were claimed by Tatiana Belonogoff (200m breaststroke) Luke Pullen and Rory Huggins (100m freestyle) as well as other medals coming from Toby Stewart, Luke Pullen and Izzy Fakkel as well as final placings for Paige Coombes, Ollie Bedworth and Abi Poulton.
The final event of day three was the male 200m individual medley which saw yet another unbelievable and nail-biting swim from Luca Fankhauser, again from lane one, to secure a silver medal and will see him swim the event at the British Summer Championships in July. Chris Finch also added to his own, and the University of Surrey’s, medal tally with a bronze medal in the senior event.
The success momentum was in full force by the final day of competition and was immediately evident as Guildford City claimed double gold medals in both the male 14-16 years and senior 4×100 medley relay events. The female 4x100m freestyle events also produced a gold medal for the 14-16 years girls team and a silver medal for the senior team.
The medal floodgate was well and truly open on day four Caroline Laurson picked up her second regional title in the 200m freestyle event and Toby Stewart continued to add to his personal medal collection, as well as adding the 100m butterfly 15 year old title to his name. This was then matched in the following race by Luca Fankhauser, who claimed the 16 year old title. Not to be outdone, the senior final saw Guildford City and University of Surrey provide half of the final qualifiers, which meant that the odds of a medal were good. Dave Hammond duly obliged and collected a silver medal.
Silver medals also went to Tilly Hansen-Hamilton, Abi Poulton, Izzy Fakkel, Alex Armstrong and Charlie Trotman, together with bronze medals for Izzy Bryant, Ollie Bedworth and Luke Pullen.
The medal haul of 49 medals for the Guildford City team and 8 for the University of Surrey team exceeded all expectations and broke the previous best medal haul of 47 medals (when University of Surrey students would have been competing as Guildford City) by some considerable distance, topping the medals table within the region.
High Performance Lead Coach, Lee Spindlow, and Age Group Squad Lead Coach, Lewis Dunford, were delighted with the success and very proud that all team members were so enthusiastic and supported each other throughout the long weekend. Chief Coach, Richard Garfield, commented that this was a momentous weekend for both Guildford City and the University of Surrey and highlighted the continued ground-breaking progress of the programme as a leading force within the South-East and beyond.