City of Oxford Swimming Club made a strong showing in the third round of the Milton Keynes Junior League on 12 September, as its younger swimmers responded enthusiastically to their selection by taking the club’s A team to third place in Guildford and its B team to fourth amid stiff competition in Oxford.
In Guildford, Billy Wotton took first place for Oxford in the 12-and-under boys’ 50m breaststroke, while Nicholas Skelton won the 50m backstroke event in the same category. Evie Mclean came home first in the girls’ 11-and-under 50m breaststroke race, and was part of the girls’ relay team which won the 4x25m medley, along with Lara Mills, Gretal Goodgame and Zoe Smith.
Lara Mills also came second in the girls’ 11-and-under 50m backstroke, as did Ralph (Freddie) Cooke in the equivalent event for the boys. The A team’s relay squads had a good night too, finishing in the silver position in the 9-year-old boys’ medley, the 10-year-old girls’ medley, the 11-year-old girls’ freestyle, and the boys’ 12-and-under freestyle race.
But the Junior League scoring system means every performance counts, and Oxford’s commendable third place was cemented by a number of swimmers who showed fantastic team spirit by travelling to Guildford to compete in just one race each: Maisie Kavanagh, Catrin Rawstorne, Rebekka Smit and Sophie Tyler, all of whom made a vital contribution.
Club camaraderie was equally apparent at the Leys pool, where Oxford’s B team enjoyed a home tie that saw them roared on by friends and family. The evening got off to a flyer when the 12-and-under girls’ relay team took victory in the medley, a neck-and-neck race in which the lead swapped hands several times before Oxford brought it home with a storming last leg. Congratulations to Freya Jones, Olivia Watkiss, Jasmine Johnson and Trinity Talkington.
The 10-year-old girls followed suit by winning their medley; Abigail Hobbins, Rosie Hilton-Dew, Freya Little and Honey Valdiserri made victory look easy. Not to be outdone, the 11-and-under girls won their medley too, increasing their lead with every length; well done to Steph Jervis, Grace O’Gorman, Susie Heron and Saskia Boyns. The girls were buoyed by the support of Ayanna Fulga, who was unable to compete after she broke her arm but nevertheless cheered her teammates on.
Nine-year-old Thomas Johnson took first comfortably in the 25m breaststroke event, and followed up by finishing third in the 25m butterfly. Along with relay swimmers Matthew Critchley and Steph Jervis, Thomas stepped in at the last minute to swim for the B team; all three put in really strong performances and were a credit to the club.
Rosie Hilton-Dew took first in the 10-year-old girls’ 50m breaststroke event, slogging it out neck and neck with a Flitwick Dolphins swimmer and showing great strength to hold on at the end. Susie Heron swam a dazzling second length to come from behind and win the girls’ 11-and-under 50m butterfly race, while Grace O’Gorman led most of the way during her 11-and-under 50m breaststroke victory.
Among the many Oxford swimmers to finish in the silver position in their events were Adam Clare, Freya Little, Andrew Taylor, Saskia Boyns, Amy Orbell-Durrant and Alex Underwood. The 10-year-old boys’ relay team (Adam Clare, Taran Pal Bola, William Healey and Andrew Taylor) came second in the medley, while the 11-and-under girls (Grace O’Gorman, Susie Heron, Saskia Boyns and Lili (Panqian) Ashton) took silver in the freestyle relay.
As in Guildford, the B team’s fourth place was won by the combined efforts of every Oxford swimmer, and was the result of a spirit that saw great mutual support among team members. Special mention should go to Oliver Thornton and Zoe Smith, two swimmers who have now left the club but responded to a request that they swim for Oxford in the final round of the competition.
City of Oxford Swimming Club sees the Milton Keynes Junior League as an important competition for the development of young swimmers, both in and out of the pool, and being picked for either team as a privilege. It would like to thank all those swimmers who made themselves available when selected, as well as the parents who have volunteered in various roles over the three rounds; in particular Fiona Hilton, for organising the Oxford teams’ participation in the competition.
The Milton Keynes and District Junior League 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 12 September, the A team finished third on 154 points behind Hillingdon A (182 points), and runaway winners Guildford City (257 points). The B team finished fourth on 182 points, behind Leighton Buzzard (186 points), Dunstable (205 points) and Chesham (217 points).
Members of City of Oxford Swimming Club’s A team (above) and B team (below) at the third round of the Milton Keynes Junior League events