SWIMMING: NORTHWICH and Winsford celebrated a Mid Cheshire double on Sunday.
Northwich retained the Speedo League First Division championship and their neighbours took the Second Division title in dramatic fashion.
It fell to 15-year-old Andrew Irvine to swim to victory in the last leg of the men's open freestyle relay to claw first place in the table out of the grasp of the Carlisle Water Polo team, who had held the lead since event three.
Winsford's evening got off to a winning start as club captain Abi Tetley raced clear in the 100m Individual Medley, but by the end of the first series of relay events, it was Carlisle who headed the points total, despite wins by Winsford's girls and boys' 15-year relay teams and their ladies' open quartet.
Individual wins by Robyn Allcock, Oliver Paver (15yr backstroke) and Abi Tetley (open butterfly) kept the pressure on, and further victories by Ashley Walton (13yr backstroke), Lucie Tetley (15yr butterfly) and another fine win from Robyn Allcock (open backstroke) closed the gap to just two points at the halfway stage.
The entire team were putting in inspired swims now as every point was going to prove invaluable. Victories came from Irvine (freestyle), Molly Thompson (open breaststroke), Ashley Walton (freestyle) and Lucie Tetley (15yr breaststroke), but as the final relay events began, Carlisle had inched into a six-point lead.
The fightback was kick-started by the 11s and 15s medley relay teams and the 13s freestyle relay teams, who all swam their fastest times of the season.
A victory from the ladies' freestyle team levelled the scores and set up the nailbiting finish.
Climactic event 50 began amid a wall of sound from excited spectators. Simon Oakley, Steve Jackson and club captain Ryan Morris all edged Winsford ahead of Carlisle and then came the final leg from Irvine - and the jubilation.
Promoted Winsford will take a tilt at Northwich's crown.
They won the final gala of the season at the Commonwealth Pool, Manchester.
Northwich led from the start but, at the halfway point, they were only four points clear of St Helens. Under threat, the North-wich swimmers responded magnificently and pulled away to a 34-point victory, from Leyland with St Helens third.
They enjoyed six relay wins and individual success through Lydia Woodward (2), Matthew Tasker (2), Hannah Evans (2), Charles Rogers, Michael Parker, Emily Illot, Edward Reid and Katie Burrows.
Northwich recently won the Deva League title as well.