By Kurt Hanson
SYDNEY, April 11. JUST over 24 hours ago, Australian World Short Course team member Melanie Houghton had to endure an unscheduled stopover in Bangkok, too sick to fly home with her Telstra Dolphins team mates. Today she is the fastest qualifier for the 16 years 100 metre butterfly final on day three of the Australian Age Championships.
Houghton, 16 along with fellow Australian team members, Nicole Irving, Todd Pearson and Beau Mannix were struck down with illness on their return flight home from Moscow. They parted with the rest of the Dolphins team soon after falling ill to the contagious "Moscow Menace," a stomach virus that upset almost all the swimmers and support staff during the Championships.
After due rest, the wounded Pearson has returned home to Perth, and the three Queenslanders — Houghton, Irving and Mannix — looked set to fly straight into Brisbane. But not to let her Chandler club down, Houghton made the decision to travel to Sydney and compete at the Australian Age Championships.
This morning her decision paid off after the gutsy teenager qualified fastest for the 16 years 100 metre butterfly final in 1:03.27, marginally ahead of Commonwealth Games team member, Jessica Abbott, 1:03.99.
Her ability to come back and compete could well be the spark her Chandler club needs to set up a solid point score charge against current high flyers, West Coast, Western Australia and Norwood, South Australia at the mid way mark of the championships.
In other results of this morning's heats session, Nic Donald , after his Australian record last night, continued his dominance in the freestyle ranks qualifying fastest for the boys 13 years and under 400 metre freestyle.
Commonwealth Games team members, Sarah Kasoulis and Kelli Waite will go head to head tonight in the girls 17 -18 years 100 metre breaststroke after posting the top two swims of the morning.
Jessica Abbott will feature again against her Commonwealth Games teammate and 2001 World Championship gold medalist, Leisel Jones in the 16 years 200 metre individual medley.
Three of the finest male age groupers in Travis Nederpelt, Michael Jackson and Nicholas Sprenger will all be vying for the chance to take out the boys 16 years 200 metre individual medley.