West Illawarra’s David McKeon kicked off Australian nationals in a big way, swimming and winning the first men’s event of prelims in the second-fastest time in the world this year. McKeon went 3:44.95, taking almost a second-and-a-half off his previous second-ranked time and getting within a second of 2014 world leader Park Tae Hwan of South Korea. McKeon leads that field by over 5 seconds heading into finals.
In the very next event, McKeon’s younger sister Emma took a narrow second seed. In that race, the 200 free, the field came in very close together, with the top three separated by less than half a second. London bronze medalist Bronte Barratt leads at 1:58.23, with McKeon second in 1:58.51. Britta Elmslie sits third back at 1:58.64, setting up what should be a good finals showdown. Both McKeon and Barratt were faster earlier this month and sit in the top 5 in the world for 2014, so watch out for some big time to drop at night.
Emma McKeon is also the 3-seed in the 100 fly. Top seed coming in Alicia Coutts sits second at the moment, putting up a 58.90 in prelims that is well off her season-best from early February. Nunawading’s Ellen Gandy is the top seed in 58.55, with McKeon third with a 58.99.
Another highly-ranked swim came from breaststroker Christian Sprenger. The 28-year-old World Champs gold medalist went 2:11.09 to lead the 200 breast field by nearly three seconds. That time leapfrogs a bunch of 2:11s to rank second in the world for 2014. Second in that event was River City Rapid’s Nick Schafer, fresh off an NCAA season with the Wisconsin Badgers. Schafer was 2:13.99 to sit second heading into the final.
Cameron McEvoy leads the men’s 50 fly, putting up a 23.91 to head into semifinals with the top seed. Nathaniel Romeo is second in 23.96, the only other man under 24 in the morning.
20-year-old Keryn McMaster of Waterworx leads the women’s 400 IM in 4:46.29. She sits just eight-tenths up on Tigersharks’ Holly Brettle heading into the final.
The women’s 50 breast looks like a great battle out of prelims, with the top three just .06 apart heading into semifinals. Sally Hunter of Marion is the leader at 31.38, but Lorna Tonks (31.40) and 16-year-old Georgia Bohl (31.44) are right behind.
In the men’s 100 back, Ashley Delaney took the top seed, putting up a 53.85 that ranks 4th in the world this year, just a tenth back of reigning Olympic gold medalist Matt Grevers of the USA. Delaney, 27, and competing for Nunawading, is the easy top seed, a half-second up on #2 Ben Treffers and a full second ahead of the third seed, Mitchell Larkin.
Also on the docket were 5 prelims events for Paralympic athletes, the men’s and women’s 100 breast and 50 free, plus the men’s 100 free.
In the breaststrokes, Tanya Huebner and Blake Cochrane lead the way with the top FINA points-rated prelims swims. The 35-year-old Huebner went 1:42.36, over two seconds faster than she went in winning the title in 2013. Cochrane, 23, went 1:20.11, just off his title-winning time from a year ago.
16-year-old Rowan Crothers put up the fastest time in the men’s 100 free at 55.56. Last year’s title-winner Maddison Elliott, 15, leads the FINA points rankings of the women’s 50 free, going 30.42 in the morning. The defending title-holder in the men’s event also qualified atop the chart. That was 22-year-old Daniel Fox, who went 24.70 and leads the men heading into the final.
The evening session (happening early in the morning for followers in the U.S.) will feature finals of the 400 IM, 400 free, 200 free and 200 breast, plus semifinals of the 50s and 100s and finals of all five Paralympic events.