Final on January 12
Rugby travelled to Droitwich Spa knowing what they needed to do to make the North/ South swim off to gain promotion out of Division 3 in the National Arena League. They thought a top 3 finish would be enough, as they headed into the third round leading the way, after two great galas in November.
Unfortunately with the late withdrawal of senior ladies stalwart, Karen Bates, and further drop outs and injuries during the gala things started to look like falling at the proverbial last hurdle. Massive praise must go to Lucy Rouse who valiantly swam events she would never choose to, to gain vital points in this closely contested gala. Other girls swam up one or even two age groups, Chloe Rimen, Olivia Gyatt, Cerys Jones, Ellen Harington, and Anna Shepherd to name but some, and as ever Megan Williams who swam in three different age groups. Several disqualifications also made life hard for the team.
As always there were some great individual performances, king of the 100m Butterfly Gleb Popov was again pick of the bunch smashing the field with a 1.04. With team spirit stretched, possibly the low point, but ultimately the turning point, was the 10/11 boys relay team being disqualified after winning by half a length, when the anchor leg swimmer, making his debut at this level, got out early. A quick chat from Club President, senior swimmer and GB Masters champion, Ross Turner, and the same swimmer anchored the next relay to second place, and in true Hollywood fashion the comeback was on. Possibly the race of the night was the boys 15-year-old medley relay, as Rugby were just pipped by a fantastically strong Leighton Buzzard team, as Noah Slinn joined the big boys with a 25-point, 50 freestyle leg. The last race of the night saw the senior men racing to second, with Ross and veteran Simon Rigg, along with the younger lads helping to drag the team up after trailing after the first 3 legs.
At this stage Rugby had finished 4th, and everyone was resigned to gallant defeat, but head coach Hemesh Chohen did seem to be in deep conversation with the recorders table. Rugby’s rousing finish, closing the gap on third to only 5 points, meant that along with the results of the first two rounds and Rugby had clung onto third place. The final will be on January 12, with three teams from the South and three from the North fight it out for promotion to the second division. A massive improvement as Rugby struggled to 8th in the league last year.
On a positive note, the growth of the club has attracted new blood and talent to join, and augers well for next year. It is just a real shame that all the swimming talent in Rugby doesn’t choose to swim for their home town club, as this would massively boost numbers within the club, as well as raise the bar across various ages.
There will be a team meeting over the Christmas period to discuss how to maximise the team’s potential for the play-off.