Swimmers gear up for Hampshire Championships challenge

Havant & Waterlooville swimmer Lucy Peers. 'Picture: Mick Young
Havant & Waterlooville swimmer Lucy Peers. 'Picture: Mick Young
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The BEST swimmers from across the county will be battling it out in the second round of the Hampshire County Championships this weekend.

Age group swimmers from nine through to 14 will go up against each other for coveted county honours at Waterlooville Leisure Centre.

Portsmouth Northsea, Fareham Nomads, Havant & Waterlooville and Locks Heath will all be represented at the annual event.

The action begins at 9.30am today and 9am on Sunday – with two sessions each day.

This year, there will be a new format to the competition, where youngsters will swim in heats and then medals will be decided strictly on the placings in the final.

Previously, the top three positions were decided according to the British Age Group Categories (BAGCAT) and an accumulation of results across different disciplines.

That is all set to change and Havant & Waterlooville head coach Graham Pople is all in favour of it.

He said: ‘It used to be like that when I started coaching 25 years ago.

‘I think it’s a good idea. They want children to be able to perform on the spot at a younger age with a relative amount of pressure.’

Speaking about his club’s prospects, Pople said: ‘I’m looking to make as many finals as possible.

‘I would like to be represented in all of them.’

Havant have 28 swimmers across the age groups with Matthew Pullen, 11 and his older brother Luke, 13, expected to win medals.

Elena Ward, 13, and Lucy Peers, 12, are also expected to finish in the podium places in their respective categories.

Locks Heath will have 11 swimmers competing in 44 events and for six of them it will be their first county championships.

Josh Beaudro, 11, qualified for the event on the last possible day and will be joined by fellow debutants James Hall, Amelia Ayling, May Fletcher, Shannon Lamb and Lucy Newton.

Head coach Lynda Reid said: ‘For some of them, like Josh Beaudro, it’s a major thing just to make the county championships and they will be going there for the experience.’

Kyle Kirkland and Evelyn Hall will be ones to look out for this weekend.

Hall, 12, defends her 50m and 200m backstroke titles, while Kirkland is a strong contender in the backstroke and breaststroke events.

Thomas Larby, Arabella Suttie and Jessica Larby will also be in action.

Fareham Nomads have a dozen representatives at the championships – an increase on last year.

Ellen Jewell, who has just turned 10, will be in the mix in the freestyle and backstroke 50m, 100m and 200m, as well as the 50m butterfly and the 200m individual medley.

Head coach Stewart Crowe said: ‘Daisy Ireland was at the county championships last year and swam in the B team relay but this year she’s qualified for 12 events.

‘She’s made a lot of progress.

‘Jo Davis, who competed last weekend in the 400m and 1,500m relays, has started off well so I expect more from him.’

Davis is returning for a second year alongside Maddy Thompson, 12, and Oliver Burton, 14.

The championships continue next weekend at the Mountbatten Centre.