Plymouth Leander dig deep to retain national club title in Cardiff

PLYMOUTH Leander held their nerve to become national club champions for the second year running.

Leander won the National Arena Swimming League’s 50th Anniversary Cup final, which turned out to be a nail-biting affair in Cardiff on Sunday.

The city club took 45 athletes, plus their coaches and supporters, up to Wales where they held off the challenge from strong Millfield and Guildford City sides to retain their title.

Millfield had taken an early lead and then Guildford dominated the junior relays which forced Leander to dig deep.

In the end, the final was decided by the last couple of relays, with just 13 points separating Plymouth from Millfield, who finished second. Guildford were just another seven points behind in third. Following them home were Hatfield, City of Cardiff, Wycombe, City of Oxford, Northampton, Stockport Metro and City of Derby.

Leander’s Sophie Freeman won the award for top girl in the 15 and under age group. Freeman was one of Plymouth’s individual race winners on the day, as were Laura Stephens, Izzy Bryant, Honey Osrin and Lucia Grant.

But it was a whole club effort and it delighted head coach Robin Armayan.

“I am extremely proud of the whole team’s performance, with each of the swimmers giving 110 per cent – some of them swimming in their first National Arena League final,” he said.

“The atmosphere as always was electric. Millfield and Guildford were very fierce opponents and made it a very exciting final to swim in.

“The swimmers had to dig deep and perform in every race but the strong team spirit within the group, led by Roman Scherer and our supporters in the stand, definitely helped us throughout the competition.

“With Arena being our main sponsor, Plymouth Leander, Plymouth College and Plymouth Uni are proud to have won the 50th National Arena League final as a united team.

“Congratulations to everyone involved including all the swimmers, volunteers and staff.”

It was a good weekend for the Western region as not only did Leander and Millfield finish first and second in the A final, but Mount Kelly claimed the B final title in Cardiff on Saturday.

Mount Kelly showed their strength to finish 43 points ahead of second-placed Bromley.

Italian star Federico Burdisso showed his class by winning the men’s 200m IM, 100m butterfly and 100m freestyle and the top male swimmer award.

Other Mount Kelly individual winners were Niamh Robinson, Harry Noble, Athena Clayson and Charlie Varker.

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