NORTHWICH Centurions will be represented at the Swim England National Open Water Festival for the first time later this month.

Poppy Maskill ensured she can compete at Rother Valley Country Park after collecting a silver medal in the under 12s girls’ age group during a regional qualifier.

She was also the highest-ranked Cheshire swimmer in her category, claiming the county championship title as a reward, after completing a 1,500m course at Salford Quays in 22.56.80.

“We felt she had a chance,” said Phil Balcombe, Centurions’ head coach.

“She classified inside the top three last year, but was too young to compete at the nationals.

“Open water races are difficult to predict though, and times in the pool only count for so much.

“It’s a contact sport, and unpredictable things happen.”

Indeed, Poppy told him afterwards that a rival had dived across the front of her at the start.

She avoided a collision, and recovered to qualify.

It was the highlight of a busy weekend for the Middlewich-based youngster, who returned home to compete in the club championships later the same day.

The following morning she travelled to Blackpool along with Northwich teammates Annelies Fein, Chloe Bedford and Eleanor Ma to represent the North Midlands at the annual Inter Association Gala.

Balcombe said: “It was great to see Centurions names on the team-sheet, and its further proof we’re continuing to make progress as a club.”

The Swim England National Open Water Festival takes place over two days from Sunday, July 30.