Wycombe District secure double first to lead the way in National Arena LeagueDecember 18, 2019
Wycombe District are the new team to beat in the National Arena Swimming League after achieving a ‘double first’ in the December finals.
The fast-improving Buckinghamshire squad ended Guildford City’s 14-year monopoly of South League titles to claim the trophy for the first time by 20 points.
Even more impressively, they edged 18 points clear of the Western League’s brand new champions Mount Kelly to head the virtual gala that helps decide the 20 Cup and B finalists who will head to Cardiff in March.
Wycombe will now start as marginal favourites to win the national trophy for the first time on March 8.
But head coach Kevin Brooks warned: “We’ll go there to win it and will do our best but we know how things can change.
“Swimmers who weren’t available [for other teams] for the December finals may become available for the national event.”
Brooks, whose team came fourth in the 2018 virtual gala, added: “I’m thrilled. I’ve been head coach for seven years and we’ve progressed from the South League’s Division One to the Premier Division and now to the top of that and of the virtual gala.
“We’ve also grown from 150 to 650 swimmers and fielded A, B and C teams because we felt it was important to give as many swimmers as possible the chance to swim in the league.
“We are great friends with Guildford City but also great rivals.
“It’s a big challenge. We came so close to beating them last year but this year we did it.”
Guildford, winners of the national title in 2016, came third in the virtual gala and will also be strong contenders in March.
Mount Kelly land first Western crown
At Newport, Devon-based Mount Kelly – B final winners for the first time in March 2019 – overpowered defending and nine-times national champions Plymouth Leander and 2005 and 2017 victors Millfield to claim the Western title for the first time.
Emma Collings-Barnes, Mount Kelly director of swimming, said: “We are made up to have won the Western League and be going into the A final for the first time.
“We had a disappointment last year, when we finished third in the West but ended up in the B final after places were reversed in the virtual gala result.
“We are really pleased with the way the team responded to that disappointment. We were motivated by it.
“The kids did an amazing job. They were absolutely brilliant.”
The rest of the finalists are…
The West’s top three joined Wycombe and Guildford in the top five nationally.
Teamipswich and Hatfield will join this quintet in the Cup Final after coming first and second in the London League and sixth and seventh in the virtual gala.
The results underlined a widening north-south divide, with the South, Western and London Leagues between them providing the top 14 in the virtual gala and 14 of the 20 A and B finalists.
The South and the West will each have five teams in Cardiff, London four and the East Midlands, North West and West Midlands two each.
East Midlands champions City of Peterborough are the best from the three most northerly leagues, finishing 15th in the virtual gala.
Along with former national champions Stockport Metro (North West) and City of Coventry (West Midlands), Peterborough qualify automatically for the Cup Final as winners of their respective leagues.
The South’s Bromley – eighth in the virtual gala – claimed top spot in the B Final from City of Cardiff (Western), Camden Swiss Cottage (London), Swansea (Western), Thanet (South), Chelsea & Westminster (London) and City of Oxford (South).
RTW Monson were unlucky to miss out after beating Oxford by three points in the South final.
City of Cambridge, Preston and Boldmere complete the B Final line-up as runners-up in the East Midlands, North West and West Midlands respectively.
For the first time for many years, there will be no final debutants.
VIRTUAL GALA RESULTS
- 1 Wycombe District (S*) 1,476
- 2 Mount Kelly (W*) 1,458
- 3 Guildford City (S**) 1,375
- 4 Millfield (W**) 1,313
- 5 Plymouth Leander (W) 1,286
- 6 Teamipswich (L*) 1,256
- 7 Hatfield (L**) 1,230
- 15 City of Peterborough (EM*) 1,025
- 20 Stockport Metro (NW*) 873
- 24 City of Coventry (WM*) 729
- 8 Bromley (S) 1,225
- 9 City of Cardiff (W) 1,181
- 10 Camden Swiss Cottage (L) 1,171
- 11 Swansea Aquatics (W) 1,111
- 12 Thanet (S) 1,083
- 13 Chelsea & Westminster (L) 1,044
- 14 City of Oxford (S) 1,028
- 18 City of Cambridge (EM**) 951
- 22 Preston (NW**) 830
- 30 Boldmere (WM**) 635
- 16 RTW Monson (S) 994
- 17 City of Milton Keynes (EM) 965
- 19 Basildon & Phoenix (L) 940
- 21 Hackney Aquatics (L) 851
- 23 City of Salford (NW) 731
- 25 Wigan BEST (NW) 703
- 26 City of Norwich (EM) 694
- 27 Southport (NW) 653
- 28 Leamington Spa (WM) 643
- 29 Warrington Warriors (NW) 635
- 31 Torfaen Dolphins (W) 629
- 32 Worcester (WM) 609
- 33 West Suffolk (EM) 567
- 34 Leicester Sharks (WM) 549
- 35 Nottingham Leander (EM) 514
- 36 City of Derby (WM) 340
*=league champions **=league runners-up