KEEPING BUSY: Ipswich swimmer Leah Neale dives into university study at her family’s Newtown home before heading off to the national titles in Adelaide.
KEEPING BUSY: Ipswich swimmer Leah Neale dives into university study at her family’s Newtown home before heading off to the national titles in Adelaide. Rob Williams

Top swimmer on elite quest

EVEN on holidays, Leah Neale is as focused as ever.

But when you're in university and preparing for two national events, such dedication is needed to achieve your goals.

Ipswich's leading swimmer is in a heavy period of training while studying part-time at QUT.

She's preparing for the national age titles in Adelaide from April 8-13 before her major goal - qualifying for the Australian team at the national open championships in Adelaide from April 26-May 3.

"Swimming comes first this year," Neale said.

While she's completing an assignment and preparing for exams in her first year of exercise and movement science and secondary education studies, Neale is devoting most time to training.

"It's pretty intense at the moment," she said, doing 10 sessions over six days a week with coach Peter Carswell.

Neale, 17, now trains at the QUT pool, having spent her St Mary's College years working across the road at St Edmund's College pool.

"It (the QUT pool) is long course whereas St Edmund's was short course," she said.

"There's modern, new, nicer facilities."

Neale is also buoyed by her latest FINA ranking of 13th in the world for the 400m freestyle.

Being in an elite squad is helping Neale in her quest to make her first world championships later this year.

She has already impressed at the Junior Pan Pacific titles (a 400m bronze and 4x200m relay silver) and at last year's Commonwealth Youth Games (four medals) in Isle of Man.

But the national open championships is the event Neale has in her sights.

She's planning a full program of events in all her freestyle disciplines, as well as 100m and 200m backstroke and the 200m individual medley.

Neale has a reduced program at next week's Australian age titles.

She's contested the age championships since 2009.

"It's the first time the age is before opens," she said, nearing the end of her junior competition.

"The age nationals are to see how I am going. It gives me an idea how I'll probably go at opens."

After swimming the Olympic trials last year for experience, she's searching for more international opportunities, especially in open ranks.

"I definitely feel more comfortable since last year when I made the final in two races," the Newtown-based swimmer said.

"I have a better feel of what it will be like."

She was encouraged by her recent performance at the NSW Open titles where she came fourth in the 400m, almost setting a personal best when not in a taper.

While Neale's training intensifies before easing her workload for her national events, she's devoting about eight hours a week to her tertiary studies.

"It's been pretty good," she said of juggling full-time training and her new study commitments.

"I'm still adapting to it."

While still spending time at her family home in Ipswich, Neale also has relatives at the Gap to help reduce the travel time.

But even on holidays this week, the hard-working Ipswich swimmer has plenty to keep her busy.