Defending champions Plymouth celebrate golden Arena League victory

Defending champions Plymouth Leander won their ninth National Arena League title in 12 years as Britain’s most popular inter-club competition marked its 50th Cup Final in style.

Plymouth also completed a double for both their county and the Western League following Devon neighbours Mount Kelly’s victory in the B final 24 hours earlier.

A third Western League team, Millfield, finished only seven points behind Plymouth in a thrilling Cup Final that also saw Guildford City third – with only 13 points covering the first three.

Between them the leading trio also claimed 36 of the 50 available race wins.

Adam Peaty, a veteran of several previous finals with City of Derby, boosted the 50th anniversary celebrations when he dropped in to meet the teams and have his picture taken with swimmers and supporters.

The Arena-sponsored Olympic 100m breaststroke champion said: “This is a great competition. It’s great for young swimmers to get on a bigger stage.

“To come with a proper team and have a proper crowd is what it’s all about at that age and it helps the transition to the British Championships, which can be very nerve-racking if you don’t have experience of a national competition.”

Everybody is important

Dignitaries were also out in force, including Arena executives, who flew in from Italy to join Swim England President Liz Sykes and Chief Executive Jane Nickerson in the VIP seats.

Also present were North West League secretary Brian Boyle and former Western League secretary Sheila Bryant, both of whom have attended all 50 Cup Finals since the inaugural one at Crystal Palace in 1970.

Plymouth Leander head coach Robin Armayan said he was ‘really happy’ with his team’s success.

“It was so close this year. Millfield were outstanding and Guildford were there as well.

“We didn’t know we’d won until the result was announced and it’s more fun when it’s close.”

He added: “In this competition, the guys compete for something that’s bigger than themselves.

“It’s more about getting points for the team so someone can come fifth or sixth and still feel happy because every point counts. Everybody is important. Everybody matters.”

Cup Final results

  1. Plymouth Leander 361
  2. Millfield 354
  3. Guildford City 348
  4. Hatfield 276
  5. City of Cardiff 271
  6. Wycombe District 265
  7. City of Oxford 257
  8. Northampton 250
  9. Stockport Metro 237
  10. City of Derby 127

Euan Dale, Millfield’s director of swimming, who won the Cup Final as a Millfield swimmer in 2005 and as head coach in 2017, said: “We came in ranked seventh and came out second, which is pretty good in this environment.

“We have come here at full strength and we’ve stepped up and given our best shot.”

Unusually, the Relay Challenge Trophy for the team with the best aggregate time from the 16 relays did not go to the winners or runners-up.

Instead it went to Guildford, whose five relay wins included a league record-breaking 2:10.71 from the U12 girls’ 4x50m Medley team.

Millfield’s Brodie Williams was named top male swimmer after winning the men’s 200m IM in 2:04.54.

Guildford City’s Tatiana Belonogoff was top female swimmer for her winning breaststroke time of 1:08.05.

Guildford also recorded a trophy double in the age group awards with Fergus Thomson and Lottie Roberts collecting the prizes for the youngest age group.

Records tumble

They won the U12 boys’ and girls’ 50m Backstroke before Roberts took the 50m Butterfly record for the age group below 30 seconds for the first time with 29.30.

Plymouth’s Blythe Kinsman was also inside the old league record with 29.89.

Awards for the U14 age group went to Northampton’s Ashley Lucas and Stockport Metro’s Eliza Pinkstone.

Lucas won the 100m Backstroke in 1:03.97, Pinkstone the 100m Butterfly in 1:04.91.

Millfield’s William Ellington toppled the league record with 1:05.81 in the U16 100m Breaststroke to claim the best swim award for that age group.

Plymouth’s Sophie Freeman collected the equivalent girls’ prize after winning the U16 100m Butterfly in 1:02.11.

In the boys’ U16 100m Butterfly, Northampton’s Edward Mildred broke the league record with 56.10.

Wycombe District won the best supporters’ prize.

Relay Challenge

  1. Guildford City 32:55.21
  2. Millfield 33:20.15 (+24.94sec)
  3. Plymouth Leander 33:22.30 (+27.09)
  4. City of Cardiff 33:35.97 (+40.76)
  5. Wycombe District 33:54.76 (+59.55)
  6. Hatfield 33:57.87 (+62.66)
  7. City of Oxford 34:00.82 (+65.61)
  8. Stockport Metro 34:24.97 (+89.76)
  9. Northampton 34:41.07 (+105.86)
  10. City of Derby 35:29.65 (+154.44)