Swim Wales West return to top flight with Division Two title at County Champs

Swim Wales West made an immediate return to the top flight at the National County Team Championships, winning the Division Two title for the third time in their history.

The Welsh team was relegated after finishing 19th in Division One in 2018, but they cruised to promotion, winning the second tier with a total of 466 points.

Head coach, Matt Williams, said: “It feels amazing to be the winners. The skill level among all the swimmers was really high.

“We are extremely happy to be going up to Division One.”

Welsh in control

Swim Wales West took the lead at the halfway stage after winning the final event of the first session – the Boys 14/15 Years 200m Medley.

That was just the team’s second win of the day, but they had the joint-most runner-up finishes up until that point to build a healthy points total.

Medi Harris – who represented Great Britain at the 2019 European Junior Championships – had earlier won the Girls 16/17 Years 100m Backstroke, shortly after finishing second in the 100m Freestyle.

Caera Lewis, Antonio Rodriguez and Kate Dunglinson all added 19 points each to increase the Welsh team’s lead at the break.

They had plenty of company at the top of the leaderboard, though, with Leicestershire among the challengers, having won two races and finished second twice.

Swim Wales West picked up from where they left off after the interval, as Rhys Edwards won the opening race of the second session – the Boys 16/17 Years 100m Butterfly.

Leicestershire had taken the lead with six races remaining, but Swim Wales West responded immediately.

Chloe Pritchard won the Girls 14/15 Years 100m Backstroke in 1:04.54 to move them five points clear.

The Welsh restored some breathing space in the final individual event of the day, with Max Elkin finishing second in the Boys 14/15 Years 100m Backstroke to add 19 points, while Leicestershire’s Daniel Kennedy picked up 13 points to keep his team within touching distance.

The difference was 11 points heading into the relays, which would prove decisive.

Leicestershire made the first move, winning heat one of the Girls 16/17 Years 200m Medley in 2:02.71.

Swim Wales West could only manage a third-place finish in the second heat, but their time of 1:58.86 ensured they finished third overall for 18 points, while Leicestershire settled for 13 points as the gap widened.

Thrilling climax in race for promotion

That race also separated the top four in the battle for promotion, with Worcestershire and Cambridgeshire joining the leaders, leaving fifth-placed Sussex seven points off the top four.

The top four remained the same after the Boys 12/13 Years 200m Medley, but a grandstand finish awaited.

Swim Wales West moved 18 points clear, trailed by Worcestershire, Leicestershire and Cambridgeshire.

A fourth-place finish in the Girls 14/15 Years 200m Medley all-but guaranteed the title for the Welsh as they added 17 points to move to 449 overall.

But there was still plenty on the line heading into the final race – the Mixed 6x50m Freestyle.

Sussex, Dorset and Hampshire were all in contention to reach Division One, with Cambridgeshire and Leicestershire battling to protect their places.

Sussex did all they could, sealing victory for a much-needed 20 points to move to 435, but they fell agonisingly short, with Leicestershire just a point ahead as they secured fourth-place on the final standings.

Cambridgeshire were third in the final relay to storm into third place overall on 438 points, while Worcestershire were comfortably second on 446 points.

Swim Wales West had plenty to celebrate after finishing 20 points clear atop the standings.

They will focus on trying to retain their place in Division One at next year’s competition.

Photo: Will Johnston Photography

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