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Debutants Mount Kelly claim Arena League title after most thrilling final ever

Cup Final debutants Mount Kelly became the first new name on the National Arena League trophy for 14 years after winning the most exciting final in the competition’s 51-year history.

The Devon club finished only four points ahead of runners-up Millfield after a gala which saw not only the lead but the top four places change hands after almost every race.

Plymouth Leander made it a one-two-three for the Western League with third place on 346 – 24 hours after the same league’s Cardiff and Swansea achieved a Welsh and Western double in the B final.

Mount Kelly are the 15th team to win the Cup Final at least once.

The final was a four-horse race for most of the gala with Mount Kelly, Millfield, Plymouth and Guildford constantly scrapping over the leading places.

After 30 of the 50 events, only two points separated the quartet with Guildford and Millfield both on 211, Mount Kelly on 210 and Plymouth on 209.

At that point Wycombe District, who had never been too far away, decided to make it a five-horse race, coming up on the rails to join the main fray.

At the death Wycombe finished fifth, only five points behind South League rivals Guildford.

Late leaders Mount Kelly conspired to make things even more exciting with a disqualification in event 48.

Roller coaster of emotions

But a win and a fourth place in the last two relays saw them home.

Head coach Emma Collings-Barnes said: “After missing out on the Cup Final last year, we felt we had a point to prove and it worked out.

“It was a roller coaster of emotions out there especially after our DQ in event 48.

“We got there in the end and I’m delighted but I can’t quite get my head around it at the moment.

“Well done to every other team. It was the most competitive meet of my life.

“I have never experienced an atmosphere like it. It was electric and that really helped to raise the kids’ performances.

“Every team in the mix was having some outstanding performances and it all came down to those minor placings.”

Mount Kelly broke the third of three League records to fall on the day, the under-14 girls’ 4x50m freestyle team’s 1:51.86 shaving 0.39 off a Plymouth mark from 2014.

Mount Kelly’s disqualification cost them the Relay Challenge Trophy, awarded to the team with the best aggregate time from the 16 relays.

Guildford land relay trophy

This went to Guildford City by the slender margin of 3.23 seconds, with only 11 seconds separating the top three after 33 minutes of relay swimming.

Plymouth Leander’s England and GB international Laura Stephens won the prize for the best women’s swim after winning the open 100m butterfly in 58.91 as well as the 200m IM.

Millfield’s Brodie Williams collected the top male award for his winning 55.81 in the 100m backstroke. He also won the men’s 200m IM.

Guildford double winner Tegan Matthews shaved 0.08 seconds off the under-12 50m backstroke record with 32.41 to win the age group award.

Teamipswich’s Reuben Alty took the under-12 boys’ award after winning the 50m butterfly and freestyle.

Hatfield’s Michael Klimaszewski won the top under-16 award after lopping 0.68 seconds off James Doolan’s 2006 age group record for the 100m butterfly (55.47).

Plymouth’s Sophie Freeman won the under-16 girls’ award for her 1:02.71 in the age group 100m butterfly.

The under-14 awards went to Plymouth’s Finn Broekhoven and Mount Kelly’s Holly Widdows.

They won the boys’ and girls’ 100m backstroke with Widdows also winning the 100m freestyle.

Hatfield won the best supporters’ prize.

Top Club

  1. Mount Kelly 362
  2. Millfield 358
  3. Plymouth Leander 346
  4. Guildford City 334
  5. Wycombe District 329
  6. Teamipswich 245
  7. Hatfield 225
  8. Bromley 222
  9. City of Peterborough 170
  10. City of Coventry 157

Relay Challenge

  1. Guildford City 32:59.19
  2. Millfield 33:02.42 (+3.23sec)
  3. Plymouth Leander 33:10.20 (+11.01)
  4. Wycombe District 33:36.75 (+27.56)
  5. Teamipswich 33:59.05 (+59.86)
  6. Hatfield 34:05.35 (+66.16)
  7. Bromley 34:05.35 (+68.700)
  8. City of Peterborough 34:29.39 (+90.20)
  9. City of Coventry 35:10.53 (+131.34)
  10. Disqualified: Mount Kelly