CANBERRA, Australia, July 6. THERE were records aplenty and the coveted team point score plot thickened as the best young swimmers from Australian and New Zealand took to the pool in the Trans Tasman Series at the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra.
Grace Loh and Ellen Fullerton (Australia Gold), Daniel Smith (Australia Green) and New Zealander Daniel Bell all set Trans Tasman meet records as members of the AIS swimming squad watched on with National Youth Coach Leigh Nugent.
The three teams have raced in Sydney, Woy Woy on the NSW Central Coast, and now in Canberra, traveling by bus in between racing, training and educational sessions designed to mimic the stresses and pressures faced by elite senior competitors at the highest level.
Tonight the racing was fierce in every event, the two Australian squads and the New Zealander's striving to win points for their team ahead of tomorrow's final meeting, ending the night with the Australian Green and Australia Gold teams locked on 499.5 with New Zealand still in touch on 491.
Of the record breakers, Loh was particularly impressive considering she broke the year old record held by fellow Australian teen Emily Seebohm, the backstroker on Australia's gold medal winning, world record breaking medley relay team at this year's FINA World Championships.
The sprinter has steadily improved throughout the week, cementing her status as the number one backstroker of the series, her 1:00.64 a whopping 0.56 under Seebohm's Trans Tasman record.
The Carl Wilson coached 15-year-old from Carey Aquatic in Melbourne came into the series with a personal best time of 1:03.83 and said she had worked on her starts and turns over the last year in a bid to improve.
"I've been working on my skills heaps and training a lot and to see people like Emily make it to those levels has helped me strive to swim a bit faster," Loh said. "I didn't expect to swim that well because my best time before the series was a high 1:03 so I was even hoping just to do a 1:02. So to go a 1:00 is awesome."
Loh will continue to focus on improving and has targeted the Telstra Australian Short Course Championships in Melbourne in August.
"My skills still need work, my turns particularly aren't fast enough, although they are getting better, but there's more room to improve and I want to swim well at short course nationals and the state championships."
Smith swam his best race of the week, notching a clean sweep of the three 400-meter freestyle races contested in the series and smashing the meet record along the way with a time of 3:50.96.
It was an impressive control of pace from the 16-year-old Gold Coaster, with splits of 1:54.03 and 1:56.93 but while he was pleased with the performance Smith said he was still hunting more records.
"I was pretty happy with how that was. I just tried to get out hard and hang on as well as I could and it seemed to work," Smith said. "I want to do the same thing tomorrow in my 200m, get out hard and try and get the record. That's what I'm focused on."
Fullerton, Smith's training partner under master coach Denis Cotterell at Miami, set her second 200-meter individual medley record of the week with a fast time of 2:15.95.
The all rounder, who possesses maturity beyond her 14 years, led from start to finish and will aim to better her 400-meter IM record tomorrow.
New Zealander Bell, one of the swimmers of the series, was the other record breaker, crushing the meet record held by Australia's World Championship relay silver medalist Grant Brits in the men's 200-meter backstroke with a sizzling time of 1:57.16.
Other winners for the Australian's included the Gold team's Kieran Casey (4:26.80) in the 400-meter individual medley and Jeremy Meyer (2:17.39) and Jessica Legge (1:11.63) in the men's 200-meter breaststroke and women's 100-meter breaststroke events respectively.
The Australian Green team's Ellese Zalewski returned to nearer her best form after a tough week with a hard fought win over Fullerton in the 200-meter freestyle.
Zalewski clocked 2:00.60, the fastest women's 200-meter of the tour, with Fullerton a stroke behind on 2:00.75, and said she hadn't really altered her tactics despite the improvement.
"I didn't really change anything but I think I was faster because I have had a bit more rest and haven't done as much hard training as the week has gone on," Zalewski said. "With all the other races I tried my hardest but the times weren't as good as this one."
The scene is set for the series to go down to the wire at tomorrow's sixth and final meet, with the action kicking off at the AIS pool at 10 a.m.
Special thanks to Swimming Australia for contributing this report.
Full results were not available at press time.