Ben Hutchinson hopes to get a second chance to swim for England in the Home Schools International.

The 15-year-old Crawley swimmer missed out last year when the foot-and-mouth epidemic caused the event to be postponed.

But he took his first step towards selection for 2002 with a hat-trick of victories at the Sussex Schools Championships in his home pool.

He will now compete for Sussex in national inter-county qualifiers in a bid to reach the finals which could seal another international call-up. The Imberhorne (East Grinstead) pupil has already been chosen to fly the flag in next month's World Schools Games at Caen in France His triumphs at Crawley underlined his growing potential.

Tim Hartley, his club and county coach, said: "They show he is making good progress. His personal best times are coming down very nicely."

Hutchinson, with the other winners from Crawley, will compete in the national qualifiers at Southampton in September with the finals the following month in Sheffield. The Home International will be staged in Ireland next March.

He said: "I wasn't that happy when the international was cancelled. I was really looking forward to it. Hopefully I can earn selection again. I'd love to compete for my country in it. I think my form at Crawley showed I've got a chance, I'm improving.

"It would complete a great double with the World Schools Games."

Trevor Gaunt (William Parker, Hastings), Amy Kent (Brighton and Hove High) and Jack Smith (Patcham High) also scored a hat-trick at Crawley.

Gaunt and Kent claimed the senior titles at 100m backstroke, 200m medley and 50m freestyle. Smith repeated the success in the juniors.

The first four in each of the 50m freestyle events ensured their place in the relays for the county in September.

A record 63 schools took part, but the number of swimmers was restricted to 100 because of time.

West Sussex beat East Sussex by 48 points in the team competition decided by top-six finishes.