The United States' women's 800-meter freestyle relay team - from left, Katie Ledecky, Katie McLaughlin, Leah Smith and Missy Franklin - pose with their gold medals at the FINA World Championships in Kazan, Russia, on Thursday.

Katie McLaughlin helps U.S. win relay gold at World Championships


Katie McLaughlin had a major assignment Thursday at the FINA World Championships in Kazan, Russia, and she came through golden.

The Santa Margarita graduate and Mission Viejo Nadadores club swimmer was selected to race on the U.S. women’s 800-meter freestyle relay for the final, giving her two events to navigate in the day’s session.

McLaughlin raced third on the relay and split a time of 1 minute, 56.92 seconds, setting the stage for Katie Ledecky to anchor the U.S. team to the wall first in 7:45.37.

McLaughlin, 18, didn’t qualify for the 800 free relay final, but she was selected after a discussion amongst U.S. coaches, a process U.S. women’s head coach Dave Salo outlined earlier this summer.

Ledecky, who split a 1:55.64, was impressed with the result from the World Championships rookie.

“Katie McLaughlin had the best last 50 out there, and I’m so proud of her,” Ledecky said to USA Swimming. “She’s had a tremendous week.”

McLaughlin kept the U.S. team in second place after taking over for leadoff Missy Franklin (1:55.95) and Leah Smith (1:56.86). The Americans outdistanced runner-up Italy (7:48.41), bronze medalist China (7:49.10) and Sweden (7:50.24).

“Having my teammates on the relay definitely gave me a little strength at the end,” McLaughlin told USA Swimming. “When I started to feel tired at the end, I just wanted to do it for my team and for Team USA.”

McLaughlin’s challenge Thursday included racing the 200 butterfly final earlier in the session. The Cal-bound swimmer led the first three laps and finished sixth in a national age-group record and lifetime-best 2:06.95. American Cammile Adams touched second in 2:06.40.

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