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2015 Register's girls swimmer of the year: Katie McLaughlin, Santa Margarita
It was a perfect ending for Katie McLaughlin.
The Santa Margarita swimmer known for placing a high-value on team competition blazed the final four laps of the 400-yard freestyle relay earlier this month to seal her fourth consecutive CIF-Southern Section Division 1 team title. She then shed a few tears exiting the pool in Riverside with teammates, including fellow senior Sydney Franzen.
“I definitely had tears of joy and it was a little sad, too,” McLaughlin said. “It was awesome to be able to (win) senior year with the girls on our team. … I’m happy how it ended up.”
The season finished with McLaughlin becoming the rarest of Orange County swimmers: an undefeated CIF Division 1 team champion who also built a resume stacked with an overall national high school record and three Orange County records.
“Very historic,” Santa Margarita co-coach Ron Blanc said of McLaughlin, the Register’s Orange County girls swimmer of the year for a second consecutive spring.
“She definitely ranks in the top-five (female) swimmers in Orange County history.”
All-County girls swimming & diving team
After Janet Evans (El Dorado), McLaughlin might share the all-time great podium with Shirley Babashoff (Fountain Valley), Kaitlin Sandeno (El Toro) and Crean Lutheran senior Ella Eastin, who departs with two county records.
But McLaughlin’s winning ways in Division 1 make her unique. In her first two seasons at JSerra and her last two at Santa Margarita, the Mission Viejo Nadadores club swimmer flourished as a relay anchor. This spring was no different.
In her final high school race, the Cal-bound McLaughlin split her 400 anchor at CIF in a sizzling 48.11 seconds to bring the Eagles to the wall first in a Division 1 record time of 3 minutes, 21.04 seconds. It was the fourth consecutive season that McLaughlin anchored the winning 400 free relay at the Division 1 finals.
“High school season is more about the team (for me),” she said. “I think my best swims are always last on a relay. I go faster on those just because I feel the team is on me. I just like (anchoring).”
McLaughlin also was again a force in her individual events. She captured her fourth consecutive CIF Division 1 title in the 100 butterfly by clocking a lifetime-best 51.53 to reclaim her overall national high school record.
McLaughlin actually wanted to be a little faster but turned her time into fuel.
“It just gives me more motivation to work hard,” she said.
She also claimed her third consecutive CIF Division 1 crown in the 200 free by breaking her own county and Division 1 record with a lifetime-best 1:43.01, which dominated the field. Her time ranks second in the nation this school year to world-record holder Katie Ledecky’s 1:41.55, according to results posted by the National Interscholastic Swim Coaches Association.
McLaughlin even added a twist to her CIF program. In prelims, she led off the 400 free relay in a county-record 48.69 for the 100, just three tenths of a second off the national private high school record of Olympic champion Missy Franklin, who will be her U.S. teammate this August at the FINA World Championships in Kazan, Russia.
But McLaughlin claimed her share of records. In addition to the three county records set this spring, she leaves Santa Margarita with seven school records, including a 1:59.84 in the 200 individual medley.
“She went out in style,” Blanc said.
And with her teammates.
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