City of Oxford’s relay teams inspired the club to a strong start in the first round of the Milton Keynes and District Junior League competition on 6 June, leading the A team to third place amid stiff competition in Hendon, and the B team to a creditable fifth in a close-run night in Wellingborough.
In Hendon, the 11-and-under girls’ team – Lara Mills, Evie McLean, Zoe Smith and Gretal Goodgame – pulled off an important early win in the freestyle relay, which was echoed at the end of the night by a victory in the same event by the 12-and-under girls: Delphine Little, Megan Smit, Mimi Morley Iszatt and Safiya Silah.
The boys had a good night too, with the 9-and-unders – Lachlan Middleton, David Feng, Noah Ashton, James Thorp and Thomas Gamaio Johnson – and the 12-and-unders – Ralph (Freddie) Cooke, Billy Wotton, Nicholas Skelton and Logan Bryan – taking second in both the medley and freestyle relays.
In Wellingborough, the girls’ teams were even more dominant. The 12-and-unders – Olivia Watkiss, Amy Orbell-Durrant, Jasmine Johnson and Trinity Talkington – got the evening off to a flyer, just pipping Chesham into second place in the medley relay amid deafening shouts.
Not to be outdone, the 10-and-unders – Abigail Hopkins, Rosie Hilton-Dew, Freya Little and Megan Peake – quickly followed suit in the same event, and the 11-and-unders – Ayanna Fulga, Susie Heron, Stephanie Jervis and Lili (Panqian) Ashton – led all the way in the freestyle relay, giving Oxford three wins in the first four girls’ races.
The 12-and-unders took victory again at the end of the night in the freestyle relay, a well-earned success for a group of girls who show great support for each other and the team. The 9-and-under boys relay team – Ethan Bird, Harry Jones, Noel Cowan, Moses Baker – put in a strong showing too, coming second in the medley and third in the freestyle event.
The night also saw some great individual performances by Oxford swimmers, many of whom swam faster in their events than they ever had before. In Hendon, Delphine Little won both the 50m freestyle and 50m backstroke races in the 12-and-under category, while among the 11-and-unders, Evie McLean took the 50m breaststroke by some distance. Billy Wotton was fastest in the same event among the 12-and-under boys.
The event winners were roared to victory by their teammates, who provided much-appreciated support and were a vital part of the club’s success. Maisie Kavanagh, Noah Ashton and Sophie Tyler in particular showed fantastic team spirit.
In Wellingborough, Ayanna Fulga took the 11-and-under girls’ 50m butterfly by a country mile, coming in over four seconds ahead of the second-placed swimmer, while Rosie Hilton-Dew won the 50m breaststroke among the 10-and-unders in a dramatic neck-and-neck finish with a swimmer from the home club. Nine-year-old Rebekka Smit took the 25m backstroke with a really plucky swim.
Oxford’s camaraderie was evident throughout the night, with the stamps and claps of the club’s chant ringing round the pool before the warm-up began, and even the youngest swimmers still shouting themselves hoarse at the end of the night as the club finished a close second in the climactic ‘cannon’ relay.
The Milton Keynes and District Junior League competition aims to promote and develop competitive team swimming in children aged 9 to 12. The league runs with two divisions of three separate rounds (and three simultaneous galas), usually held June – September. League points are allocated to teams according to their performances, and are totalled across rounds to determine which gala they attend later in the league. In the final round, the top teams swim against each other, and so on.
City of Oxford’s A team are in division one, and the B team are in division two. On 6 June, the A team finished third on 189 points behind Ealing (201 points) and Guildford (267), while the B team finished fifth on 153 points, behind Chesham (159), Linslade Crusaders (171), City of Milton Keynes (172) and the winners Wellingborough on 178 points.