Ryan, Huegill Rock at Aussie Nationals

By Ian Hanson

BRISBANE, QLD., Australia, March 20. IMPRESSIVELY fast performances by Sarah Ryan and Geoff Huegill were the highlights of Day 3 of the Australian National Championships, being held at the Chandler Aquatic Centre in Brisbane. The meet is also serving as the selection trials for the Commonwealth Games and Pan Pacific Championships.

Sarah Ryan, Australia's premier female freestyle sprinter, spent today getting re-assurance from AIS sports psychologist Clark Perry. Tonight she clocked one of the fastest times ever by an Australian to win her event.

Ryan, 25, lowered her own personal best time by 0.20 to 54.94 seconds to win the gold medal and book her seat on the plane for her third Commonwealth Games in Manchester in July.

"I saw Clark today and he put a different spin on things…I was too focused on times and wanting to do a 54 and worrying about the other girls, but after looking at the video of last night's semi-final he helped settle me down and it worked…he's a gem," Ryan said after claiming her third straight 100m freestyle crown.

The time would have won her the silver medal at last year's World Championships and placed her tied for fourth behind Inge de Bruijn on the 2001 World Rankings.

Ryan was just 0.15 outside Susie O'Neill's Commonwealth record and and places her second on the Australian All-time list – only the second Australian under 55 seconds.

It was the fastest 100m freestyle final at a National Championships with five swimmers all clocking personal best times.

Silver medalist Jodie Henry clocked her third PB in two days when she swam 55.33 – the third fastest ever by an Australian, while bronze medalist Petria Thomas clocked 55.98 (6th fastest by an Australian); fourth place getter Alice Mills (56.03, tied for seventh) and sixth placegetter Cassie Hunt (56.18, 9th fastest by an Australian).

Collectively, the first four Australian girls, would be ranked second in the world for the 4x100m freestyle relay – an encouraging sign for the Commonwealth Games and the Pan Pacific Championships.

Ryan was ecstatic, saying: "I cannot believe it. I am so rapt to go under 55 seconds, I'm so surprised. It was one of those magical swims when you don't feel any pain.

"I was really nervous before the race. I really didn't feel that well today and I just can't believe I have done that.

"I seem to have had a problem with Nationals and I don't perform as well at home as I do at the big international meets, especially in the relays, I absolutely cherish being part of a team.

"The 4x100m freestyle in the past has not been as good as our other relays but we are getting there. The girls are starting to step up and we can definitely make the top three in the world."

Ryan said the older she gets the smarter she gets in her approach to swimming.

"It comes with age, I'm not as crazy as I was as a 16-year-old…I'm learning that it is just a race. I've just got to get in and swim two laps, I know how to swim."

The dual Olympian and world champion relay swimmer said she had been spurred on by all the talk about the young girls coming up.

"Petria and I were discussing it today and feeling a bit frustrated because we older girls still have a lot to offer and a lot of experience that we can pass on," Ryan said.

"But it's good to have the younger girls to keep me on my toes."

Ryan, at 25 and Thomas, 26, will be joined on the Manchester relay team by Chandler Swimming Club youngsters, 18-year-old Jodie Henry and 15-year-old Alice Mills – one of the finds of this year's Championships.

Geoff Huegill won the men's 50 meter butterfly in 23.58 seconds and said he was happy with his performance despite narrowly missing out on a world record.

Huegill, who is world champion in the event, won the national title for the fifth time in a row. Adam Pine (24.30) came in second ahead of Brett Hawke (24.48).

But the 23-year-old Huegill was just 0.14 seconds outside his previous world record of 23.44, which he set at last year's world championships in Fukuoka, Japan.

"I wish I went a bit faster, but you've still got to be happy with that," Huegill said after the race.

He agreed it was only a matter of time before he broke another world record.

"I've had a good lead up, leading in to the meet, I've been doing a lot of racing and so far it's been pretty good so we'll see what happens in the 100 (meters)"

Leisel Jones, the Olympic silver medalist in the 100m breast, won the women's 200 meters with a time of
2:26.68. Jones, who won the 50 yesterday, was
comfortably ahead of Kelli Waite (2:28.96) and Brooke Hanson (2:31.85).

Ray Hass set a personal best time of l:58.59 to take the men's 200m backstroke final ahead of world 100 meter backstroke champion Matt Welsh (1:59.67) and Leigh McBean (2:01.33).

Dyana Calub (1:02.18) took the women's 100m backstroke ahead of 200m freestyle world champion Giaan Rooney (1:02.40) and Fran Adcock (1:02.94).

In the men's 100m breaststroke, Jim Piper (1:01.87) beat Justin Norris (1:02.45) and Regan Harrison (1:02.54) to win the national title.

The six-day championships finish on Saturday.

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