Jett Burke from the Maclean Manta Rays won a bronze medal at the Combined High Schools (CHS) Swimming Championships. Image: contributed

Local swimmers make a splash in Sydney

Emma Pritchard

Several Clarence Valley athletes and coaching staff were among thousands evacuated from the Sydney Olympic Park Aquatic Centre on May 13 during the Combined High Schools (CHS) Swimming Championships after a number of solar panels on the roof caught fire on Day 1 of the event.

Shortly after 12pm six fire trucks and 24 Fire and Rescue NSW firefighters arrived at the scene following reports of thick black smoke rising from the building.

Upon investigation, crews found a working fire in the solar panels on the roof and utilised a ladder platform to combat the flames, bringing the blaze under control within 45 minutes.

More than 2500 people were safely evacuated from the sporting facility, including members of the Maclean Manta Rays and their head coach Ruth Everuss who told the Clarence Valley Independent the fire began while competitors were still in the water.

“The sirens went off at around 12:15pm, and we didn’t realise what was happening at first,” she recalled, adding she wasn’t aware if it was a drill or a false alarm.

“Soon an announcement was made, and we were all told to evacuate.

“We ended up waiting outside for around one and a half hours, and we could see smoke coming up through the roof.”

It was more than two hours before occupants were allowed to return to the building to collect their personal belongings, but the incident prevented full program of the CHS Swimming Championships from being completed.

“It was disappointing as some of the kids who travelled down from the Clarence Valley didn’t get the chance to swim,” Ms Everuss said.

“But we still had eight swimmers from the Maclean Manta Rays finishing in the top 10 in their events, and that was great.”

Prolific swimmer Jett Burke won a bronze medal after placing third in the Boys 16 years 100m butterfly.

He also finished fifth in the Boys 16 years 100m backstroke, seventh in the Boys 16 years 100m freestyle and 50m freestyle, and nineth in the 16 years Boys 200m freestyle.

Freya Meade’s best results included two fourth placings in the Girls 14 years 50m freestyle and Girls 14 years 100m breaststroke, while Joseph Novicky finished fifth in the Boys 12-15 years MC 50m breaststroke, Jack Leeson came fourth in the Boys 17-19 years 400m individual medley, and Hayden White placed sixth in the Boys 15 years 200m and 100m freestyle.

“They all swam really well,” Ms Everuss said.

“They all trained hard and in difficult circumstances in the lead-up to the event, and a special mention has to go to Michelle Irwin, Manager of the Maclean Memorial Pool who kept the pool open to allow them to train.

“Normally, they swim in water around 28 degrees, but in recent weeks they have been training in water between 23 and 25 degrees.

“They’re all very courageous and brave.”