Northsea talents at the double

Dominic Johnson. Picture: Mick Young (132981-14)
Dominic Johnson. Picture: Mick Young (132981-14)
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Portsmouth Northsea are celebrating double delight.

A stunning conclusion to the final gala of the Arena League campaign saw the B team clinch the division two west championship and promotion to division one west.

Meanwhile, the A string produced a thrilling display in Guildford to complete back-to-back promotions and earn a spot in the premier division next term.

The second string prepared for their final gala knowing a top-two position would be enough to secure promotion in their maiden season.

But it was clear from their start they had no intention of settling for second best.

The team claimed four victories in the opening eight relays to set the early pace alongside fellow promotion hopefuls Guildford City.

And under-13 breaststroke glory for Dominic Johnson and under-15 backstroke success for Joe Hendry helped them open up a three-point lead after 18 events.

It was clear by the halfway stage the two clubs would seal promotion – but the race for the division two west title was hotting up.

Northsea took control with successive wins for Jacky Knight and Aaron Lloyd – in the girls’ and boys’ under-15 butterfly respectively.

Ladies’ backstroke glory for Megan Owen and Max Hewitt’s men’s breaststroke success followed almost immediately.

Guildford refused to give up, though, and closed the gap to four points for the final eight relay races.

The Surrey outfit then turned the tables on Portsmouth with wins in the first two relays and second spot in the third.

Northsea still had plenty of fight in their ranks, though.

And back-to-back wins in the boys’ and girls’ under-13 freestyle relays – as well as third spot in the boys’ under-15 medley relay – saw them edge back in front with two events to go.

Northsea then completed a thrilling finale with a men’s and women’s freestyle relay double – to take the gala by five points and snatch the crown.

Not to be outdone by their B team, the club’s premier string were eyeing promotion, too.

They sat third ahead of the final gala in Guildford – needing to finish second to reach their goal. And they burst off the blocks in fine style with six top two finishes in the relays.

Rachel Christie won the under-13 girls breaststroke and Kelly Small took the under-15 girls’ backstroke to ensure they kept their noses in front after 28 events.

Table-toppers Newbury soon pegged them back but Max Burnell’s under-13 backstroke win, coupled with victory for Sarah Owen in the ladies’ backstroke, ensured Northsea took a firm grip on second spot.

Much like the B team’s gala, the top two eased clear of their rivals, sealing promotion before settling down to fight for the overall title.

Neil Redman won the men’s breaststroke and James Millar claimed the under-15 event to close the gap at the top to just two points with only the relays left.

In a frantic finish – with the swimmers roared on by a passionate crowd – wins in the under-13 boys’ freestyle and under-15 medley races held the gap at two points going into the final men’s freestyle relay.

But despite a fantastic effort, they were pipped into second by Basingstoke which meant Newbury clinched the title by just one point.