Regions rule the pool at state swimming championships

Talent ran deep at the Sydney Olympic Park pool as the regions gave the city kids more than a run for their money. Glenn Cullen reports.

Image: Merewether High School's Ava Jankovic shows off her incredible medal haul.

Any assumption you have to be a big city kid to dominate the pool were blown out of the water at the NSW Combined High Schools Swimming Championships, with regional students among the most impressive at the three-day event.

Determining who was best in pool after a series of stellar performances last week was no easy feat, but it’s hard to go past Merewether High School’s Ava Jankovic.

Competing in the Under 17-19 age division for the Hunter School Sports Association (SSA), Ava touched home first in an incredible seven events at Sydney Olympic Park.

Her roll call of wins included every freestyle event from the 100m to 800m, the 200m and 400m individual medleys and the 100m butterfly.

A few years younger, but not too far behind in terms of performance was Sienna Toohey, 14, from the Riverina SSA.

The Albury High School student logged five wins including a 50-100-200m freestyle triple crown, 200m individual medley and 100m breaststroke victories. In the latter event, she broke the 2019 record.

Image: Albury High School's Sienna Toohey had five wins at the meet.

Koby Bujak-Upton (17-19 years) from Barrenjoey High School flew the flag for Sydney North SSA with wins in the 50-100-200m freestyle and the 100m butterfly. He beat the record for the 50m freestyle in the process.

And if Koby’s name sounds familiar in swimming circles, it’s because his father, Simon Upton, was a backstroker for Australia at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul.

Zwi Ratajczak (12 years boys) and Hudson Hegarty (13 years boys) both collected four wins apiece, competing for Sydney East SSA, from Caringbah High School and Barrenjoey High School, respectively.

A number of multi class records were also broken and are expected to be ratified soon.

And there was plenty of interest in Picnic Point High School’s Thomas Valassis, who last year beat two of swimming legend Ian Thorpe’s records while a student at Milperra Primary School.

Joining the event's live-streaming team was four-time Olympic diver Melissa Wu, who revealed her ambitions for a record fifth Games, and 2004 Olympian Craig Stevens, who is Head Coach, Targeted Sports Program in swimming, at Endeavour Sports High School.

“We were delighted with what was an excellent showcase of some of the best young swimmers in the country,” said Peter Banks, Leader School Sport Unit.

“And it was so heartening to see a cross-section of students from across the state doing so well. It really shows that if you put in the effort, you can get the rewards, no matter where you are based.”

Image: Picnic Point High School's Thomas Valassis.
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