SOME of the country's finest swimmers headed to Stockport to test their mettle in a thrilling short course competition.
The Stockport Metro Open Meet welcomed 500 athletes from across the UK and from as far away as Belgium for the electrifying three-day event at Life Leisure's Grand Central.
It was the perfect opportunity for the stars of the pool to hone their skills ahead of the English Short Course National Championship in Sheffield, with senior and junior competitors putting in world class performances.
Commonwealth Games silver medallist Holly Hibbott, 19 of the Heaton Norris, put in an exceptional effort in front of her home crowd to record her best ever time in the 400m freestyle, touching in at 4:02.25 and dipping below the 4:03 mark for the first time.
Her performance was mirrored by fellow Wolfpack swimmer Katie Matts, 20, who also produced a resounding result in the 200m breaststroke, touching in at 2:22.93 and comfortably beating bronze Commonwealth medallist Chloe Tutton.
World Champion swimmer James Guy, 23, earner the top spot in the 200m freestyle, with an impressively paced split of 52/52.
The former Millfield swimmer, who now swims for Bath, threw down a decisive in in the 200m butterfly, taking the top spot by over three seconds and earning a new personal best (PB) of 1:54.81.
Sean Kelly, performance director at Life Leisure, which hosted the event, said it was the highest attended event in the programme's 23 years.
Sean said: "It was an international meet with a lot of strong performances from a lot of big clubs, so the standard was particularly high, and the atmosphere was great.
"There are no national titles on the line, but all the swimmers were out to post their fastest time of the season in preparation for the National Championships.
"The skin events were very fast and exciting with some very tight finishes, they were the stand out events of the weekend."
Fourteen-year-olds Olivia Herron, from Stockport Metro, and Freya Colbert, and from Nottingham's Nova Centurion, were extremely closely matched in the high-octane skin’s competition, with Herron touching in at 2:18.38 and Colbert finishing a whisker behind in 2:18.41.
Stockport's Matts and Hibbott qualified for the skins event in the 200 IM, with Matts finishing two seconds ahead of Hibbott with a time of 2:12.66.
Sean, who has coached Olympians and Commonwealth Champions at the club including Steve Parry, James Goddard, Casandra Patten, David Carry, Michael Rock and Keri-Anne Payne - said the club is living up to its heritage as one of the most successful clubs in UK history.
He added: "From juniors to seniors, the Stockport swimmers really stood out with a great performance from the whole team.
"It has been great to host the meet here as not only does it give our swimmers the experience of professionals competition that they need, it gives them a platform to show the whole world how we do it in Stockport.
"The whole event was a great tribute to the team and the volunteers, particularly head coach Richard Blackshaw, who co-ordinated the event, and the one hundred volunteers who all stepped up to help the event run as smoothly as it did."