Mack Horton on his 1500m ambition: “I have a goal time, but I think that is a secret”

Mack Horton has a “secret” target time in mind for the 1500-metre final at the Australian swimming championships on Friday night and pledged after qualifying in Thursday morning’s heats to “attack” the race in an all-out bid to reach or better it.

Horton, 18 and a world junior champion, swam within himself to place second in his heat of the 1500-metres at the Sydney Olympic Aquatic Centre in Homebush.

He swam 15 minutes 26.66 seconds. His heat, the second of two for only nine entries, was won in 15:12.63 by NSW’s Jarrod Poort who later withdrew from the final.

“I was just trying to save energy for tomorrow night,” Horton said after his heat. “I want to go pretty fast tomorrow night. I was just doing what I need to do to do that.”

The first heat saw Jordan Harrison win in 15:28.95, from fellow Queenslanders Jack McLoughlin who was second in 15:29.47 and Joshua Parrish, third in 15:39.25.

Horton, who has already won the 400-metres and 800-metres freestyle titles, would not reveal what time he believe he can go for in Friday’s final, but he is on the cusp of bettering Grant Hackett’s Australian age record for the event.

Horton, touted as Australia’s next distance star, has a 1500m personal best of 14:48.76, recorded at last year’s Commonwealth Games where he won silver.

That time was just outside Hackett’s 1999 age record for 18-year-olds of 14:48.63.

These national titles at the Sydney Olympic Aquatic Centre in Homebush is the last chance Horton has to break the mark, as he turns 19 on April 25.

Asked on Thursday morning what time he hopes for, Morton said: “I have a goal time, but I think that is a secret. I will tell you if I get it or not tomorrow night.”

As for his race plan, he said: “Traditionally, I tend to attack it and it usually works pretty well, and just try and hang on for those last couple of hundred metres.”

He said with a conservative start, “you might get to the end and have heaps left and you could have used that at the start. It’s just better to get out there and attack it.

“Keeping in mind … you still have 1500m to go, so [it is] a steady strong attack.”

He then quipped, smiling, that his plan was: “The Australian way,” before walking off.

Harrison, 19, his confidence boosted after his 4 x 200-metre relay success with the Miami club in a club record time on Wednesday night, didn’t hide his intent to shadow Horton in the final and then see what he has left to take him on.

“He’s been 14.48 before and he is swimming faster in the 400 than he was at ‘Commies’ when he went 14.48,” Harrison said.

“Your logic would say he is swimming faster at the 1500 as well, and I guess if he is swimming fast at sub-14.50 I will try and stick with him and see what I can pull out.”

Meanwhile, the Campbell sisters – Bronte and Cate – qualified first and second fastest for the women’s 50m freestyle semi-finals that will be held on Thursday night.

The pair both admitted to being short on some sleep after world champion Cate Campbell, 22, beat Bronte, 20, to win the 100-metre final on Wednesday night.

But again they were pleased with their heats that – like the 100-metres heats – saw Bronte clock the fastest time of 24.72 seconds. Cate was second fastest in 24.76.

However, the sisters were still beaming with a mixture of joy and even relief after both qualified for individual spots on the Australian team – the Dolphins – to race the 100-metres event at the world championships to be held in Kazan in Russia in August.

They stayed up to 2am to relax, enjoy a late dinner, and also watch a movie – the romantic comedy, ‘Crazy Stupid Love’ that Cate labelled as “an oldie but a goodie”.

Cate Campbell revealed how important the Australian titles are for a swimmer, as they double as trials for the world championship team.

“I find trials the most stressful competition of the year,” she said.

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