Aussie Thomas Neill Sets Junior Short Course WR in 400 Free; Mitch Larkin Shines

Thomas Neill (2)
STROKED: New Junior WR holder Thomas Neill shows the style that makes him one of Australia's hottest young stars. Photo Courtesy: Delly Carr (Swimming Australia).

Aussie Thomas Neill Sets Junior Short Course WR in 400 Free; Mitch Larkin Shines

Australia’s rising distance swimming star Thomas Neill (Rackley) set his first World Junior Record in the 400m freestyle at the Queensland State Short Course Championships today and heart-breakingly missed another one by just one one-hundredth of a second.

Thomas Neill finish

GOING THE DISTANCE: Thomas Neill, following a long line of Queensland Olympic distance stars Grant Hackett, Kieren Perkins, Daniel Kowalski and Glen Housman. Photo Courtesy: Delly Carr (Swimming Australia).

Neill started the final session of the three-day meet at the Brisbane Aquatic Centre with an eye-catching performance, clocking a time of 3 minutes 38. 00 to take 1.17secs of the previous world mark for boys 18 years and younger.

And then five hours later, in the final event of the meet Neill won the 800m freestyle in a time of 7:36.10 – just 0.10 outside German Sven Schwartz’s 2019 Junior WR set in Berlin.


WINNING SPLITS: Grant Hackett and Ian Thorpe are the only two Australians who have swum faster than Elijah Winnington (pictured) over the short course 400m freestyle. Photo Courtesy: Hanson Media/Swimming NSW

And swimming right next to him in the 400m, eye-balling him all the way the man he took the WR off – Commonwealth Games relay gold medallist and fellow Queenslander Elijah Winnington (Bond), who is now training under coach Dean Boxall at St Peters Western.

There was hardly a split second between the pair as they swam stroke-for-stroke for 16 laps, with 20-year-old Winnington stopping the clock in a personal best time of 3:37.45 to take the title with 18-year-old Neill touching second to steal his new Junior WR with a time of 3:38.00.

Winnington turned at the 200m in 1:47.32, with Neill a touch behind in 1:47.70 and at the 300m turn it was Winnington in 2:43.15 and Neill in 2:43.50, with Winnington holding on and pushing Neill to the new WR, erasing his name from the record books.

Winnington’s previous WR of 3:39.17 was set at the Australian SC Championships in Melbourne in 2018.

In Australia only Olympic and world champions Grant Hackett (3:34.58) and Ian Thorpe (3:34.68) have swum faster than Winnington (3:37.45) followed by Thomas Fraser-Holmes (3:37.63) and Neill (3:38.00).

Neill’s 17-year-old training partner, under coach Damien Jones, at Rackley Centenary, Sam Short, finished third in a new 17 years Queensland All-Comers record time of 3:44.44.

The Rackley boys then jumped back in the pool for Neill’s tilt at another world junior time over 800m, churning through 32 laps with Short in hot pursuit splitting the first 100 in 54.25; 1:50.82 (200m) and 3:44.09 (400m) when he started to widen the gap with the 7:36.00 mark well within his grasp – only to see it slip from his finger tips by 0.10.

It may not be any consolation but Neill did set new Queensland and Queensland All Comers records and his time has only been bettered by Australian Olympic gold medal 1500m champions, reigning world record holder Hackett (7:23.42) set in Melbourne in 2008 and Kieren Perkins (7:34.90) set in Sydney in 1993 – and places him in the Top 15 in the World All-Time.

Short finished second in 7:44.82, just outside his personal best of 7:43.85, set recently at the Brisbane SC Championships.


IN THE RED: “Big Red” Janelle Elford, 1988 Olympic swimmer for Australia, and daughter “Little Red” Lani Pallister, 3-time World Junior Champion. Photo Courtesy: Delly Carr, Swimming Australia

Neill was named the Male Swimmer of the Meet for his 400m Junior WR, before he had even swum the 800m while Lani Pallister (for her Australian record swim in the women’s 800m freestyle of 8:11.71) and Maddy Gough (for her Australian record in the 1500m freestyle of 15:31.19) shared the Award for Queensland State’s Female Swimmers of the Meet.


Pallister (Cotton Tree) wrapped her busy and successful State Championship campaign taking another “lead from the front “Katie Ledecky style win in the 400m freestyle, clocking a a personal best time of 4:01.96 (1:59.21) from a fast finishing Olympic 10km representative in Kareena Lee (Noosa) in a personal best of 4:03.95 with Kiah Melverton (TSS Aquatic) third in 4:04.06.

While Pallister and Gough have been most impressive, so too has Lee who has been a stand out, certainly coming of age in the pool as she stakes her claim as one to watch when she gets to Tokyo next year for her Olympic debut in the 10km marathon.

Meanwhile, World SC record holder and dual 400m LC and SC world champion Ariarne Titmus (St Peters Western) was a late withdrawal from the 400m, due to sickness with coach Dean Boxall confirming she was “off colour.”


ABREAST OF THE TIMES: Southport’s Youth Olympian Chelsea Hodges aiming for Tokyo..and if the cap fits? Photo Courtesy: IOC Media

In other events, Southport’s 19-year-old breaststroker Chelsea Hodges showed why she will be one to watch in the countdown to next year’s Olympic Trials, adding the 50m breaststroke in personal best time of 30.28 to her 100m breaststroke pb of 1:05.56 – the equal 9th fastest all-time Australian with Lorna Tonks.

The women’s 200m breaststroke saw Bond’s Jenna Strauch (2:23.78) grab a narrow victory in thrilling finish with Moreton Bay’s US Collegiate star Calypso Sheridan (2:23.83) with Olympians Taylor McKeown (2:26.87) and Tessa Wallace (2:28.93) third and fourth respectively.

Dual Olympian Mitch Larkin (St Peters Western) claimed training partner Clyde Lewis’ Queensland All Comers record with his time of 1:53.03 in the 200IM with Sheridan winning the women’s 200IM in 2:10.96 from McKeown (2:14.51) and Yeronga Park’s Rio 10km Olympian Chelsea Gubecka (2:q14.82) third.

While Moreton Bay’s Minna Atherton showed why she will be tough to hold off as she works towards qualifying for her first Olympics, completing the backstroke treble, adding the 50m backstroke in 27.17.


TUNED FOR TOKYO: Chandler Swim Club’s Zac Stubblety-Cook shows the style that he hopes will see him make his Olympic debut in Tokyo. Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

The men’s breaststroke events saw Chandler Swim Club’s Tokyo aspirant and world championship finalist, Zac Stubblety-Cook (2:06.04) score a comfortable win in the 200m breaststroke while Liam Hunter (59.00) had earlier beaten Stubblety-Cook (59.09) in the hard fought 100m final.

While Rackley’s Louis Townsend (21.96) in the 50m freestyle and (27.43) in the 50m breaststroke added two titles to his 100IM championship as she showed his versatility and Meg Harris (St Peters Western) concluded her solid meet with victory in the 50m freestyle in 25.03.



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