Rachel Nicol and Kierra Smith celebrate at the wall after finishing first and second in the 100 metre breaststroke

Nicol’s fast time in gold medal performance surprised her

Adds win to bronze the day before at national trials

Rachel Nicol is the new women’s 100 metre breaststroke champion in a time of 1:08.15 on day two of the 2015 Team Canada Swim Trials.

With that time the Lethbridge, Alta., native qualified for the Pan Am Games and set a personal best time in the process.

Nicol came into the finals expecting a time in the 1:08 range, but she was surprised by how quick her time was.

“It was quite surprising, I feel like I could have got a 1:08, but I didn’t know that the 1:08 would be that low and win it,” said Nicol, standing in the mixed zone at the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre. “I am really excited about it.”

Nicol has had a busy month of March. During the year, she races for the Southern Methodist University Mustangs, and all of the NCAA events have taken place over the past three weeks.

Despite swimming in 12 races over past month, Nicol is only getting faster. She received both All-Conference Honors and All-American Honors in 2015.

“This was my third meet in a row, it was a very intense season,” said Nicol. “I came in here not really knowing what to expect at all I didn’t really set any concrete goals, I just wanted to see how fast I could swim.”

Wednesday night, in a very eventful 200m final, Nicol won the bronze medal. She had originally finished fourth, but after a disqualification to the winner of that race, Kierra Smith, Nicol moved up.

After the disappointing end to her Wednesday night, Smith was happy with today’s result.

“I’m just so happy to have come top two tonight, I had a really rough day yesterday so to be able to collect myself and go a best time today is so special to me,” said Smith. “I’m just so relieved it’s over.”

Similar to Nicol, Smith set a new personal best at 1:08.34. She was also underneath the Pan Am Games qualification standard time, but only the first place finisher automatically qualifies.

Smith fell behind Nicol at the turn, but despite traditionally having a strong final 50 metres, she was unable to close the gap.

“I traditionally have a very strong backhalf, so if i’m behind at the 50 … I didn’t know I was … but if I am I’m usually not worried about it, my coach won’t be worried about it,” said Smith. “I always know it’s not over until I hit the wall.”

Follow Leah Smith @leah8lms2smith