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2021 AON NZ Championships: Review

The New Zealand Swimming Championships (formally Opens) returned after a Covid-induced hiatus to the Sir Owen Glenn National Aquatic Centre in Auckland on April 5th, the meet ran for 6 days over 11 sessions and saw a packed schedule for those competing for the status of National Champion. 


The event kicked off on the Monday evening with the Men’s 800m and the Women’s 1500m Free events, Joseph Stewart came out with the Open Bronze medal (18yrs gold) in the 800m Free with a time of 8:28.15, setting out his stall early in what was to be a heavy week for the Pirates distance swimmer. The second day saw Joseph back in the pool alongside Lewis Clareburt, Sam Brown and Bronson Lloyd in the 400IM. Competing in the respective women’s event was Georgia Wills, Jenna Rolston-Larking, Elisia Wong and Maia Adams - 8 swimmers across the two genders, of which 6 finished in the top 6 in the country. Lewis Clareburt rightly received high accolades for his 4:09.87, showcasing his continue rise to compete amongst the best in the world with an Olympic Qualifying time under his World Championships Bronze medal time of 4:12.07. There was also a 100m Back Wellington record from Sophie Irving during the Day 2 evening sessions, swimming under Samantha Lee's previous record of 1:04.76 with a time of 1:04.61.


Day 3 evening session saw Lewis Clareburt take his second gold in the 200 Free. Capital's Lochlainn O'Connor, Bronson Lloyd, Joel Crampton and Raumati's Tawhiti Te Momo all put in strong performances in the men’s 50 and 100 Fly events, before Crampton and Te Momo were joined by Atakura Julian, Robin Shen and Thomas Bain in the 50 Free finals. A first outing for PCA's representative Bronagh Ryan in the 200 Breast saw her place 8th in the A Final and Capital's Jade Morrison finished 1st in the C Final. The mens 100m event in the same discipline saw Eli Litten, Robin Shen and Mihora Jones compete in the A,B & C finals respectively.

Finals on Day 4 saw Sam Brown picked up the 17years gold in the 200m Breaststroke A final (5th overall) and Eli Litten continued his good form following on from his 100m A final placing on day 3 to come in 5th in the 200m B Final. There were 1st finals appearances from Capital's Estee Jacobs, Tayla Miles and Raumati's Annie Jencova in the 200m Fly, as well as Jencova's teammate Tori Grout in the 50 Breast. The three highlights came in the latter stages of the evening session as Lochlainn O'Connor picked up the gold medal in the 100 Fly and Clareburt led the Capital men’s 4x100 Free relay team out with a new NZ record of 49.96, helping the team pick up the first Wellington club relay gold medal for the week.


Day 5 started with another Wellington Backstroke record, this time from Molly Player in the 200m heats, registering a time of 2:17.83 to top the previous 16-year-old regional record of 2:19.88, Player went on to place 4th in the evening's A Final. The women’s 200 Fly was strongly competed by Capital's Georgia Wills, Jenna Rolston-Larking and Estee Jacobs, who came in 3rd, 4th and 8th respectively in the A Final. The same event in the men’s category saw a regional record for Lewis Clareburt with a time of 1:57.24, and once again Lochlainn O'Connor, Atakura Julian and Joel Crampton chased the leader, each with strong individual swims. Bronagh Ryan returned for a 100m Breast Bronze medal and Bronson Lloyd trumped his distance rival Joseph Stewart in the 1500m Free. The two Wellingtonians coming in 1st and 2nd were followed by Raumati's Alex Cecioni (8th), Capital's Eligh Ashby (9th) and Pirates' Nick Close (12th) in the meet’s feat of endurance.


The last session of the week was once again headlined by Lewis Clareburt, as he made another Olympic qualification time in the 200IM with a new NZ record of 1:57.89. That combined with a gold medal in the 100m free, coming just under his NZ record made in the 100 free relay time earlier in the week, capped a fantastic week for the 21-year-old. The majority of Wellington's 400IM swimmers also returned for the 200IM, with the addition of Molly Player, and performed in A, B & C finals for both genders. Raumati's Kokoro Frost competed in his second final of the meet, coming in 5th in the Mens 50m Back, there were also first time finals appearances for SwimZone's Lucy Abbott and Ashley Boag in the 100m free events before Capital’s men took out the 4x100 Free relay with Lewis Clareburt, Sam Brown, Bronson Lloyd and Atakura Julian rounding off the 6 days of competition in style.

Capital picked up 2nd place on the club leaderboard for the first time, an agonising 2 points short of North Shore in 1st place.

Pirates and Raumati both came in with significant points hauls of 198 & 117 respectively.