Prep swimming | Ellie Berdusco wins Saint Stephen's first state title; Cardinal Mooney's Matt O'Donnell a champ, too

HERALD STAFF REPORTNovember 11, 2012 

ORLANDO -- Saint Stephen's sophomore Ellie Berdusco hoped to get on the medal stand in her fourth trip to the Class 1A state swimming championships on Saturday.

She ended up on the top.

Berdusco won the school's first state swimming championship in the 500-yard freestyle, finishing in 4 minutes, 47.17 seconds at the Central Florida YMCA Aquatic Center.

That was almost six seconds faster than she swam in the preliminaries, during which she turned in the third-fastest time in the field. The preliminary time broke her own school record, which she shattered in the final.

"It was great," Saint Stephen's head coach Lee Cucchi said. "She just got in there from the beginning and made it hers. I don't think I've ever seen Ellie smile so much. She works so hard at this sport. It's nice to see it

all pay off."

Berdusco, who was making her fourth appearance at the state meet but had never made the medal stand, came into the meet with the fourth-fastest 500 freestyle time. The top three finishers in each event get on the medal stand.

She was one of three state champions from the Manatee-Sarasota area in the 500 freestyle, which is the longest event in high school swimming.

Cardinal Mooney senior Matt O'Donnell also won a state championship on Saturday in the 500, finishing in 4:29.51. He had the fourth-fastest time (4:33.03) in Saturday morning's preliminaries.

Lakewood Ranch's Danielle Valley won her second consecutive 500 state title on Thursday in the Class 2A meet.

Berdusco and O'Donnell also swam another individual event Saturday.

Berdusco finished fifth in the 200 freestyle in a time of 1:49.77. Megan Moroney of Saint Andrew's took first in 1:48.02.

O'Donnell settled for fourth place in the 100 backstroke in 51.32 seconds.

The Saint Stephen's girls 200 freestyle relay of Berdusco, Lauri and Kristi Schleicher and Kristen Brockett finished 12th in a time of 1:44.35.

It was the first girls relay to qualify for state in school history.

Berdusco broke two individual school records in her freestyle finals, and the relay team broke the school record as well. During the relay, Berdusco set the school 50 freestyle record with her split of 24.69 seconds.

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