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Wycombe aim for title glory as National Arena League finalists confirmed

Wycombe District SC head coach Kevin Brooks believes his club can challenge for their first National Arena League title following the announcement of the 20 qualifiers for the finals.

The Berkshire club came a close second to Guildford City in both the South’s Premier Division final and the ‘virtual gala’ between the top six teams in each of the six leagues across England and Wales.

The Arena League will host its 50th anniversary Cup Final at Cardiff on March 3.

Only 14 clubs have shared the previous 49 titles with City of Leeds alone claiming 18 wins between 1980 and 2004.

But Brooks believes fast-improving Wycombe could become the 15th just four years after making their debut in the B final.

“When I took over as head coach in 2012, we were the worst team in Berks and South Bucks,” he said.

“But we’ve got better each year, making our first B final in 2016 and the cup final in 2017 and 2018.

“Now I want to win it. That’s the project now. I’m quite excited about this.”

Friendly rivalry really productive

Just seven points separated 2016 national champions Guildford and Wycombe in the South final at High Wycombe and 15 points in the virtual gala that helps to decide the 20 national finalists.

By almost any definition, the South League is now the strongest in the country, providing not only the top two in the virtual gala but matching last year’s record tally of six qualifiers for the finals.

City of Oxford’s fifth place in the virtual gala ensured their place in the Cup Final while Bromley, Sevenoaks and Thanet go into the B final on March 2 as they did a year ago.

“The friendly rivalry between these clubs is really productive,” Brooks added. “We are good friends but we all want to beat each other.”

Guildford head coach Richard Garfield, whose club are South champions for the 14th year running, said: “We knew this would be a good year for us but we also know that Wycombe have really grown and developed. What Kevin is doing is phenomenal.

“It’s a good time to be in South of England swimming and we are proud to be involved in it.”

The Western League’s Premier Division final was a thriller with just 13 points covering the first four at Newport.

Defending national champions Plymouth Leander, who will be seeking their ninth title on March 3, topped the pile by four points from City of Cardiff with newly promoted Mount Kelly just two behind them and 2017 national champions Millfield seven points further adrift.

Debut B Final

Cardiff and Millfield will join Plymouth in the Cup Final but Mount Kelly will have to settle for a debut B Final after the reworking of race results for the virtual gala saw them swap positions with Millfield.

The remaining four places in the Cup Final go to Hatfield, Stockport, Northampton and City of Derby as champions of the London, North West, East Midlands and West Midlands Leagues respectively.

London also have two teams in the B Final (Team Ipswich and Camden Swiss Cottage) as do the East Midlands (City of Milton Keynes and City of Cambridge).

Two-time Junior League national champions Southport will their make their B Final debut after a surprise second place in the North West.

“It’s an immense achievement for a small club like ours with only 130 members,” said head coach Mark Patrickson. “Everyone is excited about it.

“Some of our senior swimmers were with us as nine to 12-year-olds when we won our Junior League national titles in 2008 and 2009.

“In 2009, Swimming Times quoted me as saying it was my dream to make the senior finals one day. Nine years later, that dream has come true.”

Worcester follow up their 2018 debut with a second B Final appearance as West Midlands runners-up.

  • All national qualifiers are dependent on the clubs’ acceptance of the invitation to take part on March 2 and 3.

VIRTUAL GALA RESULTS

CUP FINALISTS

  • 1 Guildford City (South*) 1,437
  • 2 Wycombe District (South**) 1,422
  • 3 Plymouth Leander (Western*) 1,367
  • 4 City of Cardiff A (Western**) 1,329
  • 5 City of Oxford A (South) 1,301
  • 6 Hatfield (London*) 1,296
  • 7 Millfield (Western) 1,286
  • 10 Stockport Metro (North West*) 1,202
  • 11 Northampton A (East Midlands*) 1,166
  • 26 City of Derby A (West Midlands*) 685

B FINALISTS

  • 8 Mount Kelly (Western) 1,279
  • 9 Team Ipswich (London**) 1,212
  • 12 Bromley (South) 1,133
  • 13 City of Milton Keynes (East Midlands**) 1,118
  • 14 Sevenoaks (South) 1,023
  • 15 Thanet (South) 1,014
  • 16 Camden Swiss Cottage (London) 1,004
  • 17 City of Cambridge (East Midlands) 980
  • 28 Southport (North West**) 663
  • 29 Worcester (West Midlands**) 635

NON-QUALIFIERS

  • 18 Swansea Aquatics (Western) 959
  • 19 City of Norwich (East Midlands) 920
  • 20 Hillingdon (London) 908
  • 21 Basildon (London) 883
  • 22 City of Peterborough (East Midlands) 782
  • 23 City of Salford (North West) 726
  • 24 Ealing (London) 726
  • 25 Warrington Warriors (North West) 696
  • 27 Poole (Western) 680
  • 30 Wigan BEST (North West) 617
  • 31 Leamington Spa (West Midlands) 560
  • 32 Boldmere (West Midlands) 521
  • 33 Preston (North West) 491
  • 34 West Suffolk (East Midlands) 484
  • 35 Sutton-in-Ashfield (West Midlands) 429
  • 36 Abingdon Vale (West Midlands) 366

*league champions

**=league runners-up

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