The highlight of the meet at the Queensland State Championships was the men’s 200 free, featuring a battle between two of the country’s great young swimmers.
Australian star James Magnussen has boasted in the past that as good as his 100 freestyle has been in the last 6 months (he swam the fastest time ever in textile), that he might be as good or better in the 200, though there’s been little evidence of that in the past. He has also remarked that he would consider a spot on the Australian 800 free relay, though individually his focus would be strictly on the 100.
At the Queensland State Championships yesterday, however, Magnussen was taken aback by a fantastic swim from the fast-rising 17-year old Cameron McEvoy, who won the State title in 1:48.05, which is a lifetime best for him by two seconds (clearing his mark from Junior Worlds just 4 months ago).
That left Magnussen in 2nd place in 1:49.09, which also happens to be his lifetime best (by 4-tenths).
Though he has work to do in the 200 to be among the best in the world like he is in the 100, the potential is there for Magnussen to really excel. Unlike we see from him in the 100, he takes out his 200 freestyle fairly hard (53.02 – 56.07) but still finishes relatively well. Still, McEvoy’s splits (52.88 – 55.17) are even more impressive. Suffice it to say that he’s established himself as a leading contender for the Australian Olympic Team, which will be a boost they badly need for some good, albeit thin, relays.
In the women’s 200 free, 20-year old Jade Neilsen made a huge step towards firming up her place in the grander scheme of Australian swimming with a win in 1:58.30. In that swim, she knocked off some huge names, including Bronte Barratt (1:58.43 – 2nd), Blair Evans (2:00.50 – 5th), and Kylie Palmer (2:00.67). The Australian women are looking to slow-play this in-season meets this year, though, to avoid the collapse they saw last season.
The champion in the women’s 100 fly was British national, but Australian resident, Ellen Gandy in 58.60. She’s going to have a dogfight on her hands just to make the British Olympic squad, though I like her chances. Alice Mills was 2nd in 59.23, followed by Jessicah Schipper in 59.29.
In 6th-place in this race was former sprint wunderkind Yolane Kukla in 59.60. She may have hit a bit of a plateau (perhaps stunted by her lack of growth) since bursting onto the scene as a 14-year old. Emily Seebohm was 7th in 1:00.21, which makes one wonder if she’s yet completely healthy after a freak year of injuries and illnesses.
Libby Trickett, the other Australian comeback swimmer, was 9th in 1:01.13, which is not a good time for her even if we assume that she was unrested. With every passing swim (remember that she’s been back in training for over a year now), her hopes at a final Olympic hoo-rah seem to dwindle. Her post-race comment in a Swimming Australia seemed to have a subtle air of this sentiment: “I was happy with how I executed that swim, I just wish I had went a little bit faster.”
Those words say to me that she’s doing exactly what she wants to do in the race, and the times still aren’t coming for her. That’s not a good sign.
20-year old Samantha Hamill took a good win in the women’s 400 IM in 4:40.28.
In the 16-year old boys’ 100 free, there was a great battle between three future key pieces of the Australian sprint group (maybe your 2020 400 free relay?). Regan Leong is sort of the “Magnussen” of the group, in that he was well behind at the turn but fought back to win in 51.71, just ahead of Luke Percy (51.72) and Corey Main (51.77). Add that to McEvoy’s 49.7 as a 16-year old in April (clearing Ian Thorpe’s National Age Record), and you’ve already got a 4-some that’s been well under 52-seconds in 2011.
The top three in this race each were faster than the United States’ best 16-year old was during this winter season (Jason Coombs in 52.14 at the Minnesota Grand Prix). (Shortly after posting, Carson Brindle swam a 51.67 at the long course time trials at USA Swimming Winter Junior Nationals. Advantage, at least for the current chunk of swimming, still goes to the Aussies.