Swimming: Final night of champs ends on high

Ellen Quirk and Samantha Lucie-Smith of the women's 4x100m relay team celebrate with team mate Laura Quilter after qualifying for the Commonwealth Games. Photo / Simon Watts
Ellen Quirk and Samantha Lucie-Smith of the women's 4x100m relay team celebrate with team mate Laura Quilter after qualifying for the Commonwealth Games. Photo / Simon Watts

It proved a fairytale finish to the State New Zealand Swimming Championships in Auckland tonight, when the women's 4x100m freestyle relay team bettered the Commonwealth Games standard in the final event.

The quartet of Samantha Lee, Samantha Lucie-Smith, Ellen Quirke and Laura Quilter clocked 3:41.50 in a special time trial which was a second inside the qualifying mark for Glasgow.

The quartet was the fastest four swimmers from the individual final earlier in the meet and produced a time that is the second fastest in the world this year.

It brought a massive climax to the championships and will see New Zealand send a 16-strong team to July's Commonwealth Games.

The team comprises 14 able bodied swimmers, the same as for the Delhi games four years ago, along with para swimmers Sophie Pascoe and Nikita Howarth.

The team was named by the New Zealand Olympic Committee at the conclusion of the championships which doubled as the official trial for the Commonwealth Games, next month's Oceania Championships and August's Pan Pacific Championships.

The final night of competition proved a triple treat for Lauren Boyle at the West Wave Aquatic Centre tonight.

The 26 year old, a triple medallist in the world championships last year, took out the 400m freestyle to complete a clean sweep of all three of her key freestyle races - the 200m, 400m and 800m.

All three races were under the qualifying mark for the Commonwealth Games qualifying mark at the championships which double as the official Trials for Glasgow, as well as the Oceania Championships in Auckland next month and the Pan Pacific Championships at the Gold Coast in August.

After going under the mark for Glasgow in the morning, Boyle improved further to 4:06.08, with Wellington's Samantha Lucie-Smith six seconds back in second with fellow Capital club mate Emma Robinson third.

It was mission accomplished for Boyle after she came home early from altitude training with illness.

"I was really happy to qualify this morning so I wanted to go faster. I try to go faster from qualifying to final especially at these open meets when there's not as much pressure," Boyle said.

"I was really relieved because I had a bout of some sickness three weeks ago. The beginning of the week I was relieved to swim well and now I am really happy to have qualified in the three individual events.

"Now it is back to the hard work and prepare towards Glasgow."

Her fellow Swimming New Zealand High Performance Centre training partner Nathan Capp produced a solo performance to win the 1500m freestyle.

The Greerton club swimmer, who set the national record of 15:22.83 late last year, was chasing a tough qualifying time nearly eight seconds faster tonight.

He went through the halfway mark on schedule but was unable to keep up to the rigours of 61seconds for each 100m, finishing in 15:25.25. His dominance was such that he was 23 seconds clear of second placed Michael Mincham (Waterhole, Auckland).

Meanwhile para swimming star Sophie Pascoe claimed her second qualifying performance of the competition in winning the 100m breaststroke SB9 in 1:19.09, which was more than eight seconds inside the qualifying mark.

"The Commonwealth Games is a pinnacle event for this year along with the Pan Pacific Champions a week after," Pascoe said.

"I've never been to a Commonwealth Games. It is going to be exciting going away with a new team and a new environment with the whole swimming team. I've been training with the Swimming New Zealand team for five weeks and it's been fantastic.

"And every time you get to represent your own country is always something "

In other finals tonight, US-based Natasha Lloyd (North Canterbury) took out the 100m breaststroke in 1:11.33 while Sydney-based Mitchell Donaldson (North Shore) won the 200m individual medley in 2:00.96, just over a second outside the qualifying mark for the Commonwealth Games.

Wellington's Samantha Lee (Capital) took out the women's 200m butterfly in 2:11.79 while nothing could separate Nielsen Varoy (West Auckland Aquatics) and Cameron Simpson (Templeton) when they dead-heated for first in the 50m freestyle in 23.04s.

Youth was to the fore in the 200m backstroke with 14 year old Bobbi Gichard (Greendale) triumphant in 2:15.52

- NZ Herald

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