Katie McLaughlin of Santa Margarita and the Mission Viejo Nadadores

McLaughlin expands profile with blazing 200 free

Katie McLaughlin’s resume as an Olympic hopeful for the 2016 Olympics became more diversified Thursday night in Arizona.

Racing for the Mission Viejo Nadadores, the Santa Margarita senior blazed a personal-best in the 200-meter freestyle to finish an impressive fourth at the Arena Pro Swim in Mesa at Skyline Aquatic Center.

McLaughlin clocked a time of 1 minute, 58 seconds in finishing just over a second behind winner and U.S. super-star Katie Ledecky (1:56.79). Hungarian standout Katinka Hosszu (1:57.51) and American record holder Allison Schmitt (1:57.86) touched second and third.

How significant was the race for McLaughlin? It ranks her 20th in the world this year, third fastest amongst U.S. women. Only Olympians Ledecky and Schmitt have been faster.

“Sets her up as (a) possible challenger for (the) 800 free relay (for the 2016 Olympics) if she continues to improve,” Nadadores coach Bill Rose said in a text message from Mesa.

McLaughlin, The Register's reigning female swimmer and athlete of the year, is headed to the FINA World Championships this summer in the butterfly but her 200 free now gives her another major event for the 2016 Olympic Trials.

At last summer’s U.S. nationals in Irvine, a 1:58.00 would have placed fourth, good enough to make the 800 free relay.

In another footnote, McLaughlin, 17, broke Cynthia Woodhead's 1981 Southern California Swimming record in the 200 free (1:58.65) for the 17-18 age-group.

In other Nadadores’ results Thursday, Santa Margarita freshman Samantha Shelton earned her Olympic Trials qualifying time in the 200 free by blazing a 2:01.92 to place third in the B final. McLaughlin also finished third in the 100 butterfly (59.32).

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