Northwave Swim Club's Tyler Jepsen has announced himself as one to watch with 16 wins from 18 races at the Northland Age Group Swimming Championships over the weekend.
The 15-year-old Whangārei Boys' High School student was a class above in Dargaville's Kauri Coast Community Pool as he swam record times in the 50-metre backstroke, 200m butterfly, 100m butterfly and 200m freestyle across the three-day competition which started Friday.
All of Jepsen's times were personal bests in the 50m pool, but his shining achievement was when he recorded qualifying times - in the 50m and 100m backstroke - for the New Zealand Open Championships in Auckland from March 31-April 4.
• Northland swimmers make a splash at Long Distance Championships in Dargaville
• Northland swimmer Ciara Smith claims three-peat at Northland Swimming Awards
• Swimming: Hopefuls face tough qualifying times
• Horizons Regional Council swimming water quality testing under way in Whanganui-Manawatū
Along with a previous qualifying swim in the 200m backstroke, Jepsen's results meant he would race in all three backstroke distances in the competition regarded as an Olympic trial for New Zealand's top swimmers.
Despite the importance of last weekend's meet, Jepsen said he was simply excited for the event which he had competed in since he was 10 years old.
"I was just excited for it because I knew it was going to be a big weekend," he said.
"I just hyped myself up for it so I wasn't going to be nervous at all."
While he was now qualified for the Open Championships in the three distances, Jepsen said he aimed to swim faster qualifying times at the coming Auckland Age Group Championships, which would see him qualify for a better heat come March.
Jepsen said his goal for 2020 concerned a squad selection for a competition in Australia, a selection based on the Northlander's efforts at the coming National Age Group Championships in Wellington in April.
Public respond to DoC's call for info on boaties harassing orca
Ruakākā resident upset about council's seawall plan
While he was initially selected in last year's squad, Jepsen did not travel to Australia and said the passion to book his spot on the plane burned bright.
"I think I have a chance of getting picked this year but it all just depends on how I do at nationals.
"The passion is always there."
Jepsen was one of more than 150 swimmers who took part in the three-day event. Club swimmers from across Northland, as well as Samoa's Palepua Afoa, 12, and Australia's Cameron Gawn, 12, competed in stunning conditions.
Considering the event's prominence in Northland's swimming calendar, two of Northland's long-serving officials were recognised for their service.
Poolside official Ann Bailie, 71, was congratulated for her service to Northland swimming after competing in the sport from 1958 until the age of 27. In 1974, she joined the Dargaville club and began her long stand of service to the region.
Bailie said her passion for the sport came from seeing the youth get involved.
"I just love to watch the kids," she said.
"Just the swimming. I wouldn't do it if I didn't love it."
Official Ross Gillespie was also recognised and presented with a certificate from international swimming body, FINA, to mark his stint as a referee at last year's Open Water World Championships in Gwangju, South Korea.
Gillespie is on the FINA list of referees to be rostered for events around the world, and was one of five international referees at the open water championships.