(L-R) Will Salmond, Joe Milburn, Jack Kelly, Timothy Cookson, Jacob Spark, Amber Webber and Jaylee McMahon.
(L-R) Will Salmond, Joe Milburn, Jack Kelly, Timothy Cookson, Jacob Spark, Amber Webber and Jaylee McMahon. Steph Allen

Caribeae make splash at Aus comp with most qualifiers ever

SWIMMING: Caribeae Swimming Club will be sending away its largest ever squad to the Adelaide later this week to compete at the 2019 Australian Age Swimming Championships.

Joe Milburn, Timothy Cookson, Jack Kelly, Will Salmond, Jaylee McMahon and Amber Webber will represent their Rockhampton club and Central Queensland Swimming at the nationals.

Taking on the 50m, 100m, 200m, 400m and 800m freestyle events, McMahon is nervous about the competition but excited to go up against the country's best young swimmers.

McMahon went to the national competition a few years ago and placed in the top 10 in her races with a PB in her 50m.

This year she is hoping to top that with her Caribeae cohort in her U14 division.

"It's a tough competition but it will be good,” she said.

"We're training really hard and everything and doing gym work and swimming sessions morning and afternoon.

"This competition is really hard and really serious but at the same time, you enjoy it.”

McMahon said despite her nerves, she will focus on trying her best and possibly taking home some more PBs.

"We've been working on our underwater and everything and getting our streamline good,” she said.

Milburn was the only member from the club to head down last year, and was excited for his peers to experience the intensity of the competition.

"I haven't really told them much. I've kind of left it to be their own experience, which I think they'll enjoy,” he said.

"It's just the experience I got last year that I'll have this year.

"I didn't really have a lot to go off last year because I hadn't really raced there before but I have a lot more racing experience now and I think I'll be able to implement that.

"My underwater work is what I've been focusing on in training.

"I noticed down there that a lot of really top athletes have really good underwater so I'd like to match them in that.”

This year Milburn will be swimming in the 100m and is hoping to bring back a PB.

"It's a bit less than what I swam last year but it will be good to have a straight forward focus.

"I'm looking forward to swimming that.

"It's been more focused on power than endurance as opposed to previous years.

"I've been training a little bit less i the pool as well but it's still been hard. I'm still prepared for it.”

After falling ill last year, Milburn is determined to get back to the level he was at.

"It will be a tough competition down there. It's the best from all around Australia so it's pretty hard but it's good,” he said.

"It's pretty nerve wracking but it's a good feeling and in the moment, you're not really thinking about anything else.

"It's good to have a fairly big group this time.”

As the 17-year-old will move into the Open Championships next year, he hopes to make the best of his last year in Age Nationals.

"I'll be making sure I have fun and just enjoying it,” he said.

Yesterday, Spark had just returned from the Australian Open Swimming Championships in Adelaide where he competed in the 50m butterfly.

Despite "minimal preparation”, Spark performed well and topped last year's efforts in the trials where he placed 38th with a 13th overall rank.

"I went pretty well down there. I got 5th in my only race,” he said.

This was the first year a U18-19 and U20-21 division was introduced to the Open Championships and Spark competed in the U18 division.

"I got a PB in my first heat; 25.32 and I went into the final and qualified third for it,” he said.

"I got 5th for it and did another PB with 25.17.

"It's a really good experience. They call out your name and you're on TV and all that. It's definitely a different feeling to other races you do.”

Spark had to return home early for a football camp this weekend but is still working on getting more times to qualify for the 100m butterfly and freestyle.

"So I'll be going back for that,” he said.

"It's a very high standard. They'll all men you're basically racing against and if they have that one year advantage, like a 19-year-old racing an 18-year-old, they really have a better advantage.”

In June, Spark will trial for the world championships in Tokyo in July.

Spark said the Age Nationals will be great for his club and that the team's fitness is looking impressive.

"Our training with the fitness is incredible and I think these guys will be really good, not just in their first race but as they race and tougher races come along,” he said.

"They'll get better because they have more fitness.”

Caribeae head coach Jodie Shanks said he was proud of all her pupils, who each qualified for a spot at the competition and will "match it with the best”.

"I want them to be able to execute the races the way we talk about and hopefully get PBs,” she said.

"They've definitely been training well enough to do that and hopefully they will be able to get some good results.

"There's opportunities for kids to get into the next level of swimming with a few selection trials coming up.

"Queensland has the best swimmers in Australia and you can see that with 90 per cent of the team being from Queensland on the Dolphin Squad.

"If the kids are doing well in Queensland, they generally do well in Nationals.”

At the CQ Championships this year, Milburn, Kelly and Salmond were all selected for the Queensland team and came away with a "bag full of medals”.

Milburn took home two, Kelly five and Salmond eight.