Sophie Evans lays demons to rest with 3km gold

Sophie Evans finally got her hands on National Open Water Championship gold after a battle to the finish of the 16 Yrs 3km race at Rother Valley Country Park.

The Swansea Aquatics swimmer was cruelly denied gold in the 15/16 Yrs 2km event 12 months ago, disqualified after missing the finishing funnel with the race at her mercy.

Last year’s bronze medallist Rose Foden (Northampton) didn’t let Evans have it all her own way, keeping with the Welsh swimmer throughout and forcing a desperate dash for the line.

But Evans narrowly held on to take the victory in 36:41.10 with Foden home in 36:42.07.

Sophie Millen (Wycombe District) and Loulou Vos (Hillingdon) were also not much more than a stroke apart after the last corner. But Millen clinched the bronze with a time of 38:16.14, a mere second ahead of Vos.

Evans’ Swansea teammate Cameron Croot claimed the boys’ equivalent, touching in 35:48.21 for gold. Thomas Stacey of City of Coventry managed to stay ahead of Bicester’s Kieran Bird, receiving silver on 36:09.54, with Bird third on 37:06.51.

Hughes and Griffiths win back-to-back golds

Both the boys’ and girls’ 3km competitions saw winners from 2014 return to the top of the podium at Rother Valley.

Hatfield’s Nathan Hughes led for the majority of the boys’ race with Jacob Butterfield (City of Leeds) sitting right on his feet and Dominic Johnson (Portsmouth) just a couple of metres behind.

Hughes held out for the duration, finishing a good 14 seconds in front, touching in 35:31.45.

He commented: “It was good, but quite tiring obviously. The water temperature was cold with a lot more waves than last year, so it made it much tougher.

“The competition was a lot harder than last year, but I actually found it better. I do a lot of open water swimming, regionals, the Great Swims and the Henley events, so I do get a fair bit of training. I did the Great Lake Swim at Windermere earlier in the year, which was great.”

Butterfield kept on with the chase and was rewarded with a silver for his efforts (35:45.50) while Johnson fell behind into sixth. Max Murphy of Milton powered through the field to win himself a bronze medal with 36:48.32.

Phoebe Griffiths wins open water gold in 2015

The 3km was a hotly contested race for the girls, with the main pack all finishing within a minute of one another.

Pheobe Griffiths of Waltham Forest and Sarah Branch of Northampton were both involved throughout, having won the 13yrs and 14yrs 1.5km titles 12 months ago.

Griffiths eventually prevailed with a time of 36:57.40 while Branch was second on 37:01.69. Ellesmere College Titans’ Tazmin Pugh finished in 37:07.58 for bronze.