It was another packed schedule of racing for Honiton Swimmers at the Devon County Championships, writes Tom Bornet. With six sessions across two days, some swimmers, coaches and spectators were poolside for almost 12 hours a day.

Honiton’s performances were well worth the hours, as swimmers excelled all weekend. First up for Honiton was George B in the first heat of the first event - 100m Butterfly. A brilliant swim put him in the mix for a final appearance and after an anxious wait, it was confirmed, qualifying eighth fastest of the eight-lane final.

Club Captain Duncan, swimming in the Open category, also put in a fine performance with a PB and 25th place finish. Julia was up next and continued her fine form from the previous weekend, taking almost 13 seconds off her qualifying time to finish fourth fastest in the 200m Breaststroke heats and easily qualify for the final.

Julia’s final was up first and again she put in a fine performance, improving her time again and being in the hunt for medals right until the final 25m, eventually finishing in fifth, made all the more impressive as it transpired that her goggles had come off and got caught round her neck after the start!

George’s final was next and after a solid first 50m, he paced his swim perfectly to finish strongly and swim past some of his rivals to also finish in fifth, swimming faster than his heat time.

Alex H and brothers Wilbur and Hamish M joined George for the middle session. With Alex and George first swimming the 200m Backstroke, Alex swam excellently to record what looked to be a personal best time but was unfortunately disqualified following a technical issue on one of his turns.

George also swam well to record a 5 second PB and 12th place. The 100m Freestyle was next, a hugely popular and hotly contested event with 170 swimmers lining up for the heats. Wilbur was up first, setting a new PB to finish in 17th in his age category.

Seeded 11th out of 26, George would have his work cut out to make the final but swam superbly, dropping his time by 5 seconds to not only qualify but enter the final as the fifth fastest swimmer. It was Hamish’s first event of this year’s championships and he also swam superbly for a 2.5s PB and a top 20 finish.

George returned shortly after for his final eager to see if he could match his earlier performance in the 100 Fly. As the swimmers flew off the blocks and powered down the first 50m, George was keeping pace with the faster swimmers in the middle lanes and, as the leader pulled clear at the turn, the next four swimmers turned together with less than a second covering all four, including George who turned fourth.

It remained tight all the way down the final 50m with George throwing everything into trying to overhaul the swimmer one lane inside. Unable to quite draw level, George touched the wall in a superb fourth place, just 1.23s behind third and only 1.69s off the silver medal and improving his heat time by another 2.5 seconds.

Julia rounded off the day’s swimming for Honiton with a brilliant effort in the 200m freestyle, narrowly missing out on the final in ninth place with a huge PB.

Heading back to the pool on Sunday, George, Alex and Duncan were in action early for the 200m Breaststroke. Keen to make up for Saturday, Alex swam excellently to qualify for the final. George narrowly missing out on the final, finishing ninth and Duncan swimming brilliantly to finish tenth. Alex put in a solid swim in the final as well to come home eighth in an excellent effort.

Club Captain Ellen B joined in the fun on Sunday with a superb swim in the 400m Freestyle, the long distance races are the most affected by the long pool and lack of turns but an excellently paced race saw her to 21st place in the 17 and over category.

The middle session was quieter for Honiton swimmers, George and Julia each swimming a PB in the 100m Backstroke and 100m Freestyle respectively to finish in 15th and 14th places. The final session saw plenty of fireworks.

Wilbur returned and was joined by Keir O to join George in the 50m Breaststroke, Julia also had the 50m Breaststroke with George rounding things off in the 200 Freestyle. Wilbur kicked things off in style, finishing in the top 10 in his age category.

George and Keir brought their friendly club rivalry to the county stage and were drawn in the same heat, George the fastest qualifier out of the two but only just pipped to the line by an excellent swim from Keir, who regained the bragging rights at training for the foreseeable future.

It was Julia who really impressed in the 50m Breaststroke, however, with a brilliant swim, powering away to a phenomenal time and second fastest qualifying time for the final, securing one of the coveted middle lanes for the evenings race. It would be Julia's third final of the weekend, having already secured a fifth and fourth place.

George had one last event and he too would be aiming for a third final, having secured a fourth place and a fifth place finish so far. Faced with another tough task as 12th seed, Honiton’s speed was clearly contagious, and George once again found another gear and stormed to a 13 second PB and fifth fastest time into the final.

Having secured everything but a medal so far in a brilliant weekend of racing, Head Coach Ralph Watsons team would have two more chances. George lined up for his tenth race of the weekend and once again got off to a flying start, lying second after 25m and turning at 50m in third place.

Holding position to halfway, George could not react to the leading swimmers’ injection of speed and despite battling hard in the second half, touched the wall sixth, still an amazing effort. This left Julia in the 50m Breaststroke. After a solid start all swimmers were up and into their strokes with Julia near the head of the field, as they passed halfway, three swimmers were pulling clear.

The leader from Ilfracombe with Julia and Tiverton’s representative neck and neck and vying for second. The battle would continue and with 10m to go, second place was still up for grabs. As they touched the wall, all eyes went to the scoreboard as it was still too close. It was third for Julia and a brilliantly deserved bronze medal, just 0.18 seconds behind second place. A fantastic and fitting end to a brilliant and exhausting weekend for all of Honiton’s swimmers.