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Cardiff lead Welsh one-two in National Arena Swimming League B final

City of Cardiff won their fifth National Arena Swimming League B final title in 12 years to lead a unique Welsh one-two in their home pool.

The home club took the lead during the opening block of relays and never lost it, ending up with 368 points – 59 ahead of neighbours Swansea Aquatics.

Swansea, the only other Welsh team among the 20 A and B finalists, edged a fierce scrap for second place with 309 points, only three more than third-placed Camden Swiss Cottage from the London League.

Another London team, Chelsea & Westminster, were fourth with 286.

Cardiff were initially awarded the Arena Relay Challenge Trophy based on the aggregate times from all 16 relays but both they and Swansea were later disqualified from the challenge for incurring relay disqualifications during the racing.

Camden Swiss Cottage are the new Relay Challenge winners.

It is the third year running that a team from the Western League have won the B final following Cardiff’s victory in 2018 and Mount Kelly’s in 2019.

City of Cardiff head coach Graham Wardell said: “We were disappointed not to make the A final as it is the most exciting gala you could possibly go to in Great Britain.

“But we are delighted to bring home a one-two for South Wales.

“The little ones love watching and swimming alongside the older ones, who in a few weeks will be competing in the Olympic trials.”

Wardell, whose club won the Cup Final way back in 1975, added: “We were hoping to do well.

Double-edged sword

“We knew we had some strengths and weaknesses and that the competition was going to be really tough.

“It was a real test. There were many close and exciting races.

“We have a long tradition in the League but having the final in your own pool is a double-edged sword.

“Other teams get on the coach in all their colourful kit and have a bonding experience on the way here.

“We just turn up. On the plus side, I can be home in 20 minutes!”

Cardiff also supplied the day’s only record-breaker, GB and Welsh international Xavier Castelli (formerly Xavier Mohammed), whose 100m backstroke time of 55.03 sliced half-a-second off Olympian Chris Walker-Hebborn’s League finals record from 2014.

It also won Castelli the prize for the top male swimmer with team-mate Harriet Jones taking the top female award for her 59.77 in the women’s 100m butterfly.

Swansea achieved a double in the age group awards with Aneurin Davies and double winner Chloe Pritchard respectively claiming the boys’ and girls’ under-16 top swim prizes.

Swansea dominated this age group with 10 wins from 12 races.

Other age group prizes went to RTW Monson’s Aran Bissett and Chelsea & Westminster’s Veronica Venuti in the under-12 age group and Camden Swiss Cottage’s Nicholas Finch and Cardiff’s Sophie Brassington in the under-14s.

Debutants make their mark

RTW Monson, the weekend’s only finals debutants, made their mark in various ways.

The team, from Royal Tunbridge Wells, in Kent, only made the B final because Stockport Metro withdrew from the Cup Final but they certainly justified their presence, finishing fifth overall and fourth in the Relay Challenge.

They also won the prize for the best supporters and dominated the under-12 events, winning 10 out of 12 and scoring 117 points out of a possible 120.

Some of the youngsters also ‘swam up’ in the under-14 and under-16 age groups.

RTW also finished ahead of Thanet and City of Oxford, the other two teams from the mighty South League, which supplied a maximum six teams across the two finals.

Monson are the third club to be led to their debut finals by head coach Graham Bassi, who did the same with Lincoln Vulcans in the early 2000s and Bournemouth Dolphins in 2007.

Bassi said: “We are very proud of our swimmers.

“The coaching team have worked together on their skills and technical ability and it’s paying off.

“When you take over as coach, you have to work from the bottom upwards because that’s the future of the club.

“We’re now in a very strong position for the future. In two years’ time I think we’ll be challenging for the A final.”

Top Club

  1. City of Cardiff 368
  2. Swansea Aquatics 309
  3. Camden Swiss Cottage 306
  4. Chelsea & Westminster 286
  5. RTW Monson 277
  6. Thanet 265
  7. City of Cambridge 265
  8. City of Oxford 252
  9. Preston 238
  10. Boldmere 189

Updated Relay Challenge

  1. Camden Swiss Cottage 34:03.29
  2. Chelsea & Westminster 34:513.17 (+15.90)
  3. RTW Monson 34:18.16 (+20.89)
  4. City of Cambridge 34:24.37 (+27.10)
  5. City of Oxford 34:28.29 (+31.02)
  6. Thanet 34:31.58 (+34.31)
  7. Preston 34:39.24 (+41.97)
  8. Boldmere 35:03.58 (+66.31)
  9. Disqualified: City of Cardiff, Swansea Aquatics.

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