MANATEE -- Defending 500-yard freestyle state champion Ellie Berdusco of Saint Stephen's Episcopal School in Bradenton finished second in the event at the Class 1A state swimming and diving championships in Stuart on Friday.
But after losing in a close final, Berdusco vowed she will return next year to try to reclaim her title, her coach said.
"It was an amazing race that came down to the last 100 yards," Saint Stephen's head swimming coach Lee Cucchi said of the final seconds of the 500 between Berdusco and Katie Duggan of Lake Highland Prep.
"I'm sure Ellie came away from this saying to herself, 'I'll be back.' " Cucchi added.
Berdusco, who also finished second in the 200-yard freestyle final, broke some personal and school records on the way to her two silver medals.
Berdusco also helped Saint Stephen's finish 10th in the 200-yard relay during the meet at the Sailfish Splashpark Aquatics Athletic Center.
Berdusco's time in the 500-yard freestyle final was 4:48.62, close to a personal record, but not her best ever, Cucchi said. Berdusco went into the 500 final seeded second and finished second.
In the 200-yard freestyle, where she was seeded fourth going into Friday, Berdusco did swim her best ever in the final, a 1:48.03, which is also a school record, Cucchi added. Berdusco finished second in the final to Megan Moroney of Saint Andrew's.
"The times that Ellie had in 200 and 500 automatically
qualify her for All-American status in the National Interscholastic Swim Coaches Association," Cucchi said.
"That shows how high up those times are," Cucchi added. "That puts another perspective on that level of accomplishment."
Saint Stephen's 200-yard freestyle relay team had Berdusco leading off and also included Kristen Brockett, Kristi Schleicher and Lauri Schleicher.
They were seeded 11th and finished 10th. The relay team set a personal record with a 1:41.35 in a preliminary race Friday morning.
Berdusco set a new personal best for her 50-yard relay leg, blazing to a 24.19 in the final. Her personal best coming into the meet was 24.56. She also broke her personal best in the preliminary with a 24.39. "It was a great year for us," Cucchi said. "These junior girls all feed off each other and Ellie. Ellie is a fighter. She is so determined. She's focused. She's got the whole package and is so unassuming.
She's also got the mental drive and her work ethic is incredible."
In other local results, Cardinal Mooney's Austin Katz took seventh in the 500 freestyle (4:33.63) and fifth in the 100 backstroke (51.32).
In the consolation finals, Cardial Mooney's Matthew Garcia was 13th in the 100 backstroke (53.31).
He was also 17th in the 200 freestyle.
Cardinal Mooney's 400 relay team of Katz, Garcia, Vinny Lijoi and Matthew Nutter was 11th (3:17.43), and also took 11th in the 200 medley relay (1:41.36) to help Mooney's boys finish 13th in the team standings with 54 points.
Out-of-Door Academy's Joe Plechy took 14th in the 50 freestyle (22.25).