Thrilled Preston Sharks have ended a 20-year wait to reach the National Microleague Swimming Final.
In a white hot atmosphere at Blackpool’s Palatine Leisure Centre, six of the best teams from the north of England were competing for four places in the prestigious national final, which is being held at the Corby International Pool, in Northamptonshire, next month .
Preston were up against top teams from City of Leeds, Stockport Metro, Northampton, Tynmouth and Lincoln.
Hot favourites City of Leeds set the early pace picking up wins in four of the first five events, but roared on by the superb army of supporters, Preston boys’ 10-and-under 100m medley relay team posted the club’s first win on the board.
In the individual events, Emily Hughes had the fans on their feet when she raced home in the girls’ 10-and-under 50m breaststroke – almost two seconds ahead of the rest of the field and that was matched by Nathan Smith in the boys’ event.
William Dewhurst continued Preston’s great start by finishing ahead of the pack in the 11-and-under boys’ backstroke event.
Jack Howard took to the pool for the boys’ 10-and-under 50m backstroke race and powered home in first spot to pick up more maximum points to add to Preston’s total.
With the powerful City of Leeds team picking up maximum points on several of the next events, it took excellent swims from Emily Hughes, Harry Robinson, Emily Lawrence, James Parker, Kenan Yeung, Elizabeth Wafer and Kelly McGinty, who all finished in runners-up position in their respected events, to keep the Sharks within the top-four places.
James Parker again left the rest of the swimmers in his wake as he raced home in the boys 11-and-under 50m breaststroke to raise the noise level one more notch.
Leeds dominated the final eight events, with their only defeat coming to a superb performance by the Sharks’ 200m mixed cannon team who touched four-hundredths of a second faster to steal maximum points and put them through to the final.
Sharks coach Ian Parker said: “What an amazing result. This is the first time in 20 years that we have reached the National Microleague Final.
“I am massively proud of all the swimmers who pulled out some great swims and deserve all the success that they have achieved.
“I’d like to thank to all the coaches the parents for their dedication and support.”
The final standings: City of Leeds 253, Preston 190, Northampton 188, Stockport Metro 179, Tynemouth 117, Lincoln Vulcans 100.