Rio Olympian Helena Gasson bagged her fourth title in as many days on the penultimate night of finals at the New Zealand Open Championships in Auckland.
The championships that have attracted 230 swimmers from 43 clubs, double as the trials for the world championships, Youth Commonwealth Games and the World University.
Gasson, fellow Swimming New Zealand high performance squad-mate Bradlee Ashby and 17-year-old Gabrielle Fa’amausili, who have all reached qualifying times for the world championships, secured national titles.
There were no more qualifying swims tonight, with eight swimmers having reached the standard in nine swims, with one further day of competition remaining.
Gasson added the gruelling 400m individual medley honours to the 200m medley and 50m and 100m butterfly wins earlier in the meet. Having already reached the world championship qualifying mark in the 50m butterfly and 200m individual medley, the Coast club swimmer found the effects of a big campaign a step too far in chasing a third qualifying swim.
The 22 year old streeted the field to win in 4:46.66 which was just over three seconds outside the world championship mark. Gasson was half a length ahead of teenagers Ellie Eastwood (United) and Ruby Matthews (Otumoetai, Tauranga) who filled the other podium spots.
Ashby, who broke his national record in meeting the qualifying mark in the 200m individual medley, produced a brave effort to win the 200m butterfly.
The Fairfield club swimmer came from behind to take charge in the back half of the race, winning in 2:00.19 ahead of top qualifier Shaun Burnett in 2:00.98 and his North Shore clubmate Wilrich Coetzee third in 2:01.52.
Fa’amausili (United club), who qualified in the 50m freestyle, took out the 50m backstroke title, the event in which she won the junior world title. The 17 year old clocked 28.60s to win the final which was just 8/100ths of a second off qualifying for a second world championship event.
The champion over 100m and 200m backstroke, Bobbi Gichard (Howick Pakuranga) was second in 28.89 with Wellington’s Ella Cossill (Capital) third in 29.55s.
US-based North Canterbury swimmer Natasha Lloyd, who won the 200m breaststroke title, made it two titles when she took out the 100m breaststroke crown. She won in 1:10.05 to hold off the challenges from Ciara Smith (Northwave, Whangarei) and Bronagh Ryan (Porirua). She will chase the clean sweep of national breaststroke titles with the 50m on the final day.
Hokitika’s George Schroder had to fight off a stern test to claim the men’s 100m breaststroke honours, winning in 1:02.31.
He was pipped in the 200m breaststroke final on the second day by Hawkes Bay swimmer Julian Layton, but tonight the Swimming New Zealand high performance squad swimmer held on to win by 0.3s from Syrian visitor Azad Al-Barazi with Layton a further 0.1s behind in third.
Howick Pakuranga’s Bayley Main, who is on scholarship at the University of Florida, won his first open title in claiming the men’s 50m backstroke. In 25.94 ahead of clubmate and 50m freestyle winner Daniel Hunter in 26.07 with talented North Shore teenager Finn Kennard-Campbell third in 26.14.
Taranaki’s Charlotte Webby, who has already qualified for the world championships in open water, came from behind to win the women’s 200m butterfly in 2:18.38.
Rising North Shore teenager Yeonsu Lee made the early charge but was run down in the final 50m with Webby finishing clear of Katlyn Steedman (Ace, Hamilton) 2:21.57 and Vanessa Ouwehand (Te Awamutu) 2:23.58.
In Para swimming action Manawatu teenager Chris Arbuthnott (Icebreaker) impressed to win the 100m butterfly in 1:04.81 ahead of Jesse Reynolds (Fairfield) and Celyn Edwards (Selwyn).
Howick Pakuranga’s Tama Solouota was fastest in the 200m freestyle in 2:19.34 from David Beck (Mt Albert Grammar) and Ethan Sionepulu (St Peters). Southland’s Jane Fox (Orca club) took out the women’s 200m freestyle in 2:48.88.
Tomorrow’s heats begin at 10am, streamed live on Swimming New Zealand’s website, with finals live on SKY TV from 7pm.
Swimming New Zealand contributed this report.