Swimming Victoria’s Performance and Development Services Coordinator, Josh Busch recently accompanied a touring team to the USA as Team Manager. This is his recap of the tour.
After months of planning, the Victorian touring team finally touched down at San Francisco International Airport on Thursday 25July. The team, to compete at the 2019 US Phillips 66 National Championships, consisted of 10 athletes, 3 coaches, 1 manager and a physiotherapist, including:
- Wayne Lawes (Swimming Victoria) Mentor Coach
- Jason Cooper (Firbank Aquastars) Coach
- Ashley Delaney (Northcote Swimming & Lifesaving Club) Coach
- Alicia Frey (PhysioHealth) Physiotherapist
- Josh Busch (Swimming Victoria) Team Manager
Athletes were selected from performances at both the 2019 Australian Swimming Championships and 2019 Australian Swimming Trials. The targeted age group was 17 years and over for females and 18 years and over for males with the intention to support athletes who are on the pathway to Senior Team Selection.
The athletes selected for the tour were:
- Sam Williamson (Firbank Aquastars)
- Ewan Bennett (MLC Aquatic)
- Luka Zubcic (Melbourne University Propulsion)
- Elliot Rogerson (Nunawading)
- Andrew Rice (Nunawading)
- Jack Carr (Northcote)
- Mikayla Smith (Nunawading)
- Kayla Costa (Nunawading)
- Kotuku Ngawati (Melbourne Vicentre)
- Elyse Woods (Melbourne Vicentre)
After a 14 hour flight and navigating the Bay area, the team reached the accommodation, Marianni’s Inn & Restaurant in Santa Clara, where they met up with the New South Wales contingent , including Jon Shaw (Team Leader), Gina Sacilotto (Biomechanist), Amanda Isaac (Coach), Leanne Speechley (Coach) and their 10 athletes.
With 5 days until the competition, the team wasted no time in preparing for the meet - training twice a day out of the 50m Olympic Pool located at Sacred Heart Prep School in Atherington. They quickly adjusted to the time difference and 30-degree warm weather. After throwing in a gym session, thanks to the team at COR Personal Training in Santa Clara, the time had come to compete.
Last held at Stanford in 2011, the US Nationals has a long history of bringing top American and International athletes together for a chance to become crowned National Champions. The 2019 Championships would be hosted by Stanford University at the Avery Aquatic Centre, a facility compromising of a 25m SC Stadium Pool, a 50m training pool and a 50m Competition pool, all of which were outdoors.
The VIC-NSW team were then joined by the members of the Australian Touring Team, including Victorian coach, Craig Jackson and Victorian athletes Bowen Gough (Nunawading), Matthew Temple (Nunawading), Brendon Smith (Nunawading), Daniel Cave (Melbourne Vicentre) and Julia Hawkins (Nunawading).
Competition Day 1
From the get-go the pace in the pool was lightning quick as competitors from clubs and colleges across the United States, as well as a number of International teams, took to the water. The Victorian – New South Wales Team would be up against some big names of world swimming, including world record holder Regan Smith, 4 x Olympic Gold Medal winner Allison Schmitt, and four-time Olympian Ryan Lochte, along with his impressive twelve Olympic medals.
First up on Day 1 was the youngest member of the team, Kayla Costa touching the wall at 2:17.57 in the 200m Butterfly. Following on from Kayla, Elyse Woods and Koti Ngawati pushed the pace in the 100m Freestyle, clocking times of 56.19 and 55.70 respectively. Koti’s time was enough to secure her a place in the C Final. Jack Carr then beat his PB by 0.02 in the Men’s 100m Freestyle, while Elliot Rogerson smashed his personal best in the 1500m Freestyle event by over 12 seconds, touching in at 15:31.13
As the hot temperatures continued into the night, the heat ramped up in the pool during the finals session. Koti continued her blistering pace, improving on her heat swim by 0.24 in the C Final while Bowen Gough from Team Australia secured a sixth-place finish in the A Final of the 200m Butterfly. Team Australia also won the Silver medal in the Men’s 4 x 100m Freestyle Relay with Victorians Bowen Gough and Matt Temple anchoring the relay, while the mixed VIC-NSW team with Andrew Rice, Luka Zubcic, Jack Carr and NSW athlete Lewis Blackburn finishing just outside the top 10 in 14th spot.
Competition Day 2
Kayla, Koti and Elyse again were first to race on day 2 in the Women’s 200m Freestyle, with all athletes swimming just outside their season’s best. Mikayla Smith then got her first opportunity of the week in the 200m Breaststroke, swimming a 0.15 PB of 2:32.38 to just miss out on a final’s position. Sam Williamson took note of the quick pace, posting a 2:13.80 to qualify for the C Final later that day. Last up for the session was Jack Carr in the 200m Backstroke, touching in at 2:06.73.
The finals session kicked off with a Gold to Team Australia athlete, Elijah Winnington, in the 200m Freestyle, while Daniel Cave narrowly missed out on a podium finish in the 100m Breaststroke. Elijah’s training partner from Bond University, Jenna Strauch brought home a Bronze in the women’s breaststroke event, while Sam Williamson continued his great form in the C final, finishing fourth. The main highlight of the night was the Women’s 4 x 100m Freestyle Relay, with the Victorian team consisting of Koti, Eylse, Kayla and Team Australia member Julia Hawkins, showing up all the American teams to win the visitors’ first Gold medal of the meet in a time of 3:41.43.
Competition Day 3
The temperature soared to 32 degrees on day 3, as Mikayla Smith battled away in the 400m IM with a time of 5:01.48. Her Nunawading teammate and training partner, Elliot Rogerson was able to better that effort with a massive 3.64 second PB in his 400m IM to qualify for the C Final. Kayla Costa and Jack Carr continued their busy race schedules, as Kayla swam a 1:01.05 and Jack a 56.02 in the 100m Butterfly events.
In the evening, Elliot’s PB streak came to a close, clocking a time (4:24.62) just over that of his heat swim. The girl’s relay team could not replicate their gold medal winning ways, finishing 6th in the 4 x 200m Freestyle event.
Competition Day 4
Unfortunately, day 4 didn’t start well for the team, with Mikayla Smith being disqualified in the 100m Breaststroke event after clocking a speedy time. Kayla Costa then touched in a time of 4:22.52 in the 400m Freestyle, while the Backstroke boys of Andrew Rice (58.02) and Jack Carr (57.06) found the going tough in the 100m event, both hitting the lane rope as the conditions of the outdoor pool were less than ideal. With the Victorian athletes feeling a little flat after the morning’s happenings, breaststroker Sam Williamson turned everyone’s frowns upside down as he secured the Victorian team’s first individual A final, touching the wall with a PB of 1:00.72 in the 100m event.
Sam was joined by Team Australia athlete Daniel Cave in the 100m Breaststroke Final, with Sam again lowering his personal best to 1:00.61 to finish 6th, just one spot behind Cave. It was then the men’s turn in the 4 x 200m Freestyle Relay, as Jack and Elliot combined with NSW athletes, Stuart Swinburn and Josh Hertz to claim a finalist medal finishing in 8th position. Team Australia’s Bowen Gough and Matthew Temple fought off the challenges to win the Gold in the relay.
Competition Day 5
After a pep talk from Mentor Coach Wayne Lawes, the Victorian Team was ready to finish the meet on a high. Koti Ngawati (2:17.33) and Mikayla Smith (2:19.05) both swam just outside their season best times in the 200m IM, while Luka Zubcic who had been waiting in the wings all week, took it up to the big boys in the splash and dash, clocking in at 23.37 in his specialty event, the 50m Freestyle.
With all the individual events finished for the week, the attention turned to the medley relays as Victoria and NSW combined to submit two teams per event. In the women’s relay, the A team was kicked off by NSW backstroker Abbey Webb, Team Australia’s Jenna Strauch swam the breaststroke leg and Kayla Costa took the butterfly section. Koti Ngawati then brought the team home in the freestyle leg, in doing so helping the team claim Bronze in 4:05.66. The B Team followed closely behind, with Team Australia’s Julia Hawkins swimming backstroke, Mikayla Smith breaststroke, NSW’s Natasha Ramsden doing butterfly and Elyse Woods completing the freestyle leg, clocking a time of 4:11.95.
In the men’s event, Sam Williamson swam the breaststroke leg in the A Team with his NSW teammates, finishing 7th (3:41.48) in the final. The B Team, with Jack Carr and Elliot Rogerson taking the first two medley legs, battled valiantly to finish with a time of 3:47.45, while Team Australia again showed their muscle, claiming Gold with Victorian athletes Daniel Cave, Matt Temple and Bowen Gough all contributing to the win.
The combined Victorian New South Wales team walked away from the meet with two medals, a gold in the Women’s 4 x 100m Freestyle and a bronze in the Women’s 4 x 100m Medley Relay.
This opportunity provided invaluable travel and race experience for athletes and coaches to perform on the world stage as we support their continued development and preparation into Tokyo 2020 and beyond.
The team would like to extend a big thank you to the USA Swimming Association and Stanford University for being so welcoming, the team at COR Personal Training, Tony Batis and the Palo Alto Swim Club for organising training facilities and the staff at Marianni’s Inn & Restaurant.