Cardiff claim National Arena League B title

City of Cardiff made the most of their home advantage to register a storming victory in the National Arena League B final.

They finished 94 points ahead of nearest challengers Northampton to regain a trophy they won three years running between 2008 and 2010, when the finals were held in Sheffield.

Assistant head coach Dale Frantzeskou, whose club surprisingly missed out on the A final this time, said: “We had a few DQs in the third round of the Western League, which cost us. We wanted to make up for that. It’s still a privilege to be in the B final.

“Our head coach Graham Wardell isn’t here due to a family bereavement and we wanted to put on a big performance for him.

“It’s also a great opportunity for the younger ones to swim with the seniors, some of whom have just come back from the Commonwealth Games.”

Cardiff lead from start to finish

Cardiff led from start to finish and registered 18 wins from 50 events. They also won the Relay Challenge by more than half a minute and collected three of the six age group awards.

Carwyn Jones was named top U12 boy after winning the 50m breaststroke in 37.23 and the 50m freestyle in 28.60. Rebecca de Torres was U14 top girl after winning the 100m butterfly in 1:03.30 while Ioan Evans won the boys’ U16 prize for his 58.96 in the 100m backstroke.

A scramble for the minor places unfolded in Cardiff’s wake with only 30 points separating the next six teams. Northampton marked their return to the league finals with second place only one point ahead of fellow returnees Camden Swiss Cottage.

All five of Northampton’s race wins came in the U16 events, including two from Betsy Wizard in the 100m butterfly and 100m freestyle.

Thanet proved the value of strength in depth, claiming fourth place despite achieving no race wins. They made up for it with a quartet of second places and 10 thirds and beat Kent neighbours Sevenoaks by one point.

Best gala I have been to

Sevenoaks’ 12 and under girls dominated their age group, scoring 58 points out 60 and breaking three of the five league records to fall on the day. Double winner Eva Okaro contributed to all three records, one in the U2 50m freestyle (27.92), the others in relays.

Bromley, one of two finals debutants, registered four wins on their way to sixth place.

“I fully expected this to be the best gala I have been to and it was,” said head coach Dave Court. “We loved it.”

Seventh-placed Ealing’s double Olympian Ekaterina Avramova, swimming at her ninth consecutive finals weekend, was named top female swimmer for the sixth time thanks to her 100m backstroke time of 1:02.55.

Top man was Daniel Jones of eighth-placed Swansea Aquatics for his 51.29 in the open 100m freestyle.

Swansea club-mate Aneurin Davies’s U14 100m breaststroke time of 1:07.95 won him the age group prize and carved more than half-a-second off a league record that had stood for eight years.

Ninth-placed City of Liverpool’s four wins included three in the boys’ 14 and under category – from Ellis Cleworth in the 100m butterfly, Tyriese Smith in the 100m freestyle and the medley relay team. Sianna Rens added maximum points in the girls’ 12 and under 50m backstroke.

Debutants Worcester had plenty to cheer, including Daniel Day’s league record time of 1:03.00 in the U14 100m backstroke and the prize for the best supporters.

Coach Mark Stowe said: “This is swimming at its best – a great team competition and a great experience.”

Arena League B Final Results

1City of Cardiff390
3Camden Swiss Cottage295
8Swansea Aquatics248
9City of Liverpool220