Olympic champions Mack Horton and Kyle Chalmers showed all their class, Emma McKeon notched a winning double and rising star Kaylee McKeown caused the upset of the night.
All in an action packed program for the first of three nights of the Victorian State Swimming Championships at the Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre.
Horton started proceedings with a powerful final 50 metres to outpace his training partner and fellow Rio gold medallist Gregorio Paltrinieri (Italy) to take the 400m freestyle final in 3:51.38 (55.99; 1:54.86).
Paltrinieri 3:51.80 (56.27; 154.79) led Horton through the first 200m but Horton, despite being in heavy training for next month’s Commonwealth Games Trials on the Gold Coast, found something extra, with fellow Olympian, Rio finalist David McKeon (Griffith University) third in 3:52.04 (56.22; 1:55.53).
“It’s cool to win your home State Championships and in the middle of a heavy training block at the moment and it’s good to have some tough racing with Greg and Dave and believe me it was tough,” said Horton.
“I’m actually in the middle of a pretty big hole (feeling tired) at the moment which means everything is on track – we’re stinging at this time of the season but it’s going well.”
But Horton and Paltrinieri wasted no time getting away from Melbourne, driving down the coast to Lorne for tomorrow’s Pier To Pub Ocean Swim and a field of 5000 swimmers.
“It’s going to be a bit of fun, driving down to Lorne tonight to get ready for the Pier To Pub tomorrow, it will be good to see how Greg handles it and I just wanted to show him a bit of Australia and show him how we do ocean swimming down here as well.”
Chalmers (Marion) clocked 49.48 to win the 100m freestyle to show he is well and truly on track for the Trials, executing his race plan to perfection to power past fellow 19-year-old and World Championship finalist Jack Cartwright (St Peters Western) 49.73 with Rio Olympic relay bronze medallist James Roberts (Somerset) third in 49.90.
“It’s awesome to win in a pretty stacked field here with Jack Cartwright and James Roberts and Travis Mahoney stepping up to do the 100m freestyle,” said Chalmers.
“It’s awesome to come across from Adelaide and get the win in the middle of hard training so I can’t complain about that.
“Everything is on track for the Trials; we finish up here on Sunday, travel back to Adelaide on Monday and start racing again on Tuesday at the SA State Championships.
“We’ll get back into another block of hard training before we start to taper off – very exciting times.”
And then there was the upset of the night with 16-year-old Kaylee McKeown (USC Spartans) – fourth in last year’s World Titles in Hungary hanging on in a gripping finish to nudge out World Champion Emily Seebohm (Brisbane Grammar) in an all-star 200m backstroke field.
It was Seebohm’s training partner, former World Junior Champion Minna Atherton who led through the 100m before McKeown took control of the race down the third 50m to open up a handy lead over Seebohm.
The final 50m saw Seebohm power her way to narrow the gap and she appeared to stretch out on the wall ahead of her younger rival who won the State title by a whisker - just 0.04 – McKeown clocking 2:08.76 to Seebohm’s 2:08.80 with Melbourne Vicentre’s Sian Whittaker finishing on strongly for third in 2:11.74.
It sets up what will be an enthralling showdown when they meet again next month for places on the Australian Commonwealth Games team (February 28-March 3).
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Meanwhile Australia’s multi-medal winning Olympian and World Championship swimmer Emma McKeon (Griffith University) showed she means business – winning the 50m butterfly in 26.70 before swimming away from the field to take the coveted 100m freestyle in 54.69 from Brisbane Grammar pair Brittany Elmslie (55.77) and Gemma Cooney (55.79).
Other winners included Mikkayla Sheridan (USC Spartans) 8:44.88 in the women’s 800m freestyle; Barbora Zavadova (Czech Republic) the 400Im in 4:45.45; Jessica Hansen (Nunawading) the women’s 100m breaststroke in 1:07.02; her club mate Bowen Gough the 200m butterfly in 2:01.18; Benjamin Treffers (Somerset) the 50m backstroke in 25.32 and Jake Packard (YSC Spartans) the 50m breaststroke in 27.91.
The winners of the Multi-Class events were: Ahmed Kelly (Melbourne Vicentre) the 50m breaststroke in 51.06; Dan Fox (USC Spartans) the 200m freestyle in 2:01.38; Tupou Neiufi (New Zealand) the 50m breaststroke in 35.35; Christopher Arbuthnott (New Zealand) the 50m backstroke in 31.30 and the 100m butterfly in 1:05.05; Madeleine Scott (Nunawading) the 100m butterfly in 1:09.37 and the 50m breaststroke in 35.91; Monique Beckwith (Surrey Park) the 200m freestyle in 2:20.05.