Queensland swimmers, led by Olympic champions Kaylee McKeown and Zac Stubblety-Cook and the Bond University team have dominated the three-day Sydney Open and UNISPORT Nationals at the Sydney Olympic Park Aquatic Centre.
Many of the State’s elite programs and the top Universities chose the meet to both wrap up their racing preparations for next month’s World Trials, set down for the Melbourne Sports And Aquatic Centre, June 13-18, as well as strive for top honours in the pool.
The meet doubled up as the National University Championships and it was Bond University (under Head Coach Chris Mooney) who were crowned the UNISPORT National University Champions, and awarded the Bill Berge-Phillips Trophy with 724 points from the University of Queensland (543) and the Queensland University of Technology (336) third.
Bond also won the Men’s point score on 375, from the University of Queensland (184) and Western Sydney University (180) while the University of Queensland (359) won the women’s point score from Bond University (349) and Queensland University of Technology (207).
For 21-year-old McKeown (Griffith, University Swim Club; Coach Michael Bohl), it was an opportunity to continue her spectacular season – putting the world on notice for the World’s in Fukuoka.
The unstoppable McKeown winning the 100 and 200m backstroke and 200 and 400 IM doubles; the 200IM in a new Australian and NSW All-Comers record of 2:07.19, the 400 IM in a new personal best of 4:31.68 as well as a world class time of 58.33 to win the 100m backstroke.
McKeown then completed her non-stop three-day program on the final night, clocking the second fastest 200m backstroke of her career, stopping the clock at 2:04.18 (29.18; 1:01.04; 1:32.68) – 1.04 secs outside her own world record of 2:03.14 (29.34; 1:00.73; 1:31.84).
It was only in March this year at SOPAC that McKeown added the 200m backstroke world mark to her 100m WR.
In her IMs, McKeown is closing in on Stephanie Rice’s National records.
Her 200IM was just 0.16 outside the 2008 Olympic gold medallist’s Australian record of 2:07.03 – a “super suit” mark established back in 2009 at the Rome World Championships and faster than the 2012 London Olympic time set by fellow Australian Alicia Coutts.
The time also rockets her to the seventh fastest All-Time and maintains her place at No 2 in the world behind Canadian wunderkind Summer McIntosh (2:06.84).
She followed her opening night 200IM with the second fastest time in the world this year in the 400IM – clocking a personal best time of 4:31.68 – just over a second outside Stephanie Rice’s 2008 Australian record.
Only Canada’s teenage super star Summer McIntosh has been faster this year and that was her world record swim of 4:25.87.
“(These times) are not something I would be doing at this time of the year. I was training a lot harder last year than my races were showing, so it’s kind of nice to have the confidence in the program and in my coach Michal Bohl now – I have been with the (Griffith University squad) for a year and it’s really paying off,” said McKeown.
While Stubblety-Cook stopped the clock in his specialist 200m breaststroke at 2:07.62 (29.81; 1:02.69; 1:35.43) – 1.67 secs outside his own world mark of 2:05.95 (29.43;1:01.89;1:34.32), set in Adelaide last May – and takes him into third place on the 2022-23 world rankings.
Stubblety-Cook (Chandler, QLD; Coach Vince Raleigh) only arrived in Sydney on Saturday to prepare for his only swim of the meet on Sunday and in the event he has owned for the past three years.
Former world record holder Matthew Wilson (SOPAC) took the race out as he did in the 2022 world record swim, leading Stubblety-Cook narrowly at the 50m mark, before the reigning World and Olympic champion built through the 100 and 150m marks, extending his lead over Wilson, who stopped the clock in an encouraging 2:11.30.
Meanwhile Lani Pallister (Griffith University SC, QLD) finished her busy weekend on the final night, with an impressive win in the 800m after New Zealand’s outstanding middle-distance star Erika Fairweather proving too good over the 200 and 400m.
Pallister won the 800m freestyle in 8:22.93 ahead of Fairweather (8:30.70) with Carlile’s Sydney-based Madeleine Gough (swimming for Bond University, QLD) third in 8:34.05.
Earlier in the meet, triple Olympian Cameron McEvoy (Somerville House, QLD; Coach Tim Lane) cracked the 22 second barrier, stopping the clock at an equally impressive 21.84, after his 21.85 heat time – his final time just 0.01 outside the Australian World Championship qualifying time of 21.83.
McEvoy and Lane have tailor-made their program to engage McEvoy for the 50m freestyle at a fourth Games in Paris and it’s a case of so far so good!
While Commonwealth Games gold medallist and reigning National champion Elizabeth Dekkers (UQ, QLD; Coach Vince Raleigh) 2:08.33 (1:02.50) led all the way to win the Sydney Open/Australian University Championship double, ahead of Kayla Hardy (University of Canberra, ACT) 2:11.89 and Laura Taylor (Bond University, QLD) 2:12.00, Dekkers adding the 100m in 59.49 on the last night.
Tokyo 400IM bronze medallist Brendon Smith (Griffith University SC; Coach Michael Bohl) 3:50.28 won the 400m freestyle on the opening night, staging a powerful final 25m and out-touched 2016 Olympic champion and training partner Mack Horton 3:50.36 with Australian Age 100 and 200m freestyle champion Flynn Southam (Bond University, QLD) third home in 3:52.07. Southam was also crowned the Australian University champion. Smith later closed the meet, adding the 400IM in 4:17.51 on the final night.
The men’s 200m freestyle saw Southam just outside his best time, winning in 1:46.36 and taking out both the inter-club and UniSport National titles, after finishing second to Kyle Chalmer in the 100m freestyle in 48.98 with Chalmers very impressive in 47.69.
Southam’s Bond Uni teammates, 16-year-old Milla Jansen winning the women’s 100m freestyle (54.83) and 21-year-old Ben Armbruster the men’s 50m butterfly in 23.35 from Cameron Gray (New Zealand) 23.67 and McEvoy (Somerville House, QLD; Coach Tim Lane) 23.70 third.
Commonwealth Games representative Josh Edwards-Smith (Griffith University SC, QLD; Coach Michael Bohl) 1:57.09 turned the tables on National champion Bradley Woodward (Western Sydney University, NSW) 1:57.42 who won the Australian University title, ahead of Chandler-coached Ty Hartwell (QUT, QLD; Coach Vince Raleigh) 1:58.92. Edwards-Smith also taking the 100m in 54.75.
While Yeronga Park’s Para star Katja Dedekind (Coach: Kate Sparkes) swimming for Griffith University had an impressive weekend in the Multi-Class events, winning the 50 and 400m freestyles and the 100m backstroke.
Dedekind, one of 18 Queenslanders heading to the Para World Championships in Manchester in August, won the 400m in 4:28.27 in an all-Queensland finish from USC Spartans two-time Paralympic champion Lakeisha Patterson (swimming for UQ) in 4:46.75 and Yeronga Park’s Poppy Wilson (4:51.52).
The Commonwealth Games gold medallist and world record holder then added 50m freestyle in 27.71 and the 100m backstroke on the final night in 1:08.52