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Hughes and Branch star at Age Group Open Water Champs

Nathan Hughes and Sarah Branch continued their dominance of the 1.5km races at the British Gas ASA National Age Group Open Water Championships at Rother Valley.

Hatfield swimmer Hughes has won the Age Group title for the past two years and completed his hat-trick with a comfortable victory in the oldest age group – the 14 Yrs.

Having won the 1500m Freestyle title in the pool last week, Hughes took the race out and never looked like being caught, establishing a 20m lead at the half-way stage before eventually coming home in 17:59.80.

“That was an okay race – quite fun,” said Hughes. “The water was a good temperature which helped.

“My coach asked if I had any tactics but I just said no, I wanted to go out and enjoy it and have fun. I took a lot of confidence from last week.

“After last year I lost the 1500m at Age Groups so it was good to do that double again this year. Hopefully I’m going to do the elite race at the Great Scottish Swim next in Loch Lomond so I’m looking forward to that now.”

Bicester Blue Fins’ Kieran Bird won silver in 18:20.30 while City of Coventry’s Thomas Stacey repeated his result from 2013 with bronze in 18:26.70.

Branch wins third medal in three years

Branch had also reached the podium for the past two years, winning silver in 2012 and gold last year.

“I knew there was quite a strong field this year but I think I did well to hold my place,” – Sarah Branch

And she defended her crown in the top age group, hitting the front during the first 750m lap then maintaining a 10 second lead for the majority of the second lap.

“I planned to swim it fast from the front and then hold on for the rest of the race if I could,” said Branch, who won 400m Freestyle bronze in the pool last night.

“I knew there was quite a strong field this year but I think I did well to hold my place. I did 10 events in the pool last week and won a bronze medal last night. I felt tired by the end but I knew I was first so that spurred me on at the finish.”

Wycombe District’s Sophie Millen won a three-way battle for silver in 18:48.80 with Hillingdon’s Loulou Vos (18:49.20) claiming bronze and teamipswich’s Lucy Oxbrow narrowly missing out in 18:49.80.

Thompson and Griffiths wins 13 Yrs titles

Shiverers’ Joel Thompson won the boys 13 Yrs title in 18:42.30 with Cleethorpes’ ASA East Region champion Billy Hendry coming through for silver in 18:43.10 and last year’s champion, Ellesmere College’s Hector Pardoe, taking bronze in 18:44.80.

The girls 13 Yrs title went to Borough of Waltham Forest’s Phoebe Griffiths as she pulled 12 seconds clear to take the title in 19:12.10, having also won 800m Freestyle gold in the pool last week.

Weston Super Mare’s Imogen Moroney (19:24.20) took silver while Winsford’s Alisha Hawkins (19:25.70) won bronze.

Ellesmere College’s Charlie Hutchison completed the pool and open water 1500m double in the 12 Yrs age group, leading throughout before winning in 18:59.50 from Bridgend’s Ioan Evans (19:17.50) and Hillingdon’s Rohan Vazirani (19:39.30).

Ellesmere were also celebrating after the girls 12 Yrs race with Shannon Dalligan (19:39.70) and Rosie Holland (19:40.30) completing a one-two for the club. Norwich’s Tilly Anema (20:13.50) won a three-way battle for bronze ahead of Wycombe District’s Eleanor Meadows (20:14.60) and Northampton’s Freya Stevens (20:15.00).