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Duckworth answers call

Daily Pilot High School Athlete of the Week

Newport Harbor sophomore helps girls' swim team earn tie with Back Bay rival Corona del Mar.

April 29, 2011|By David Carrillo PeƱaloza, david.carrillo@latimes.com
(Kent Treptow / Daily…)

About the time Casey Duckworth was on the block to anchor the 400-yard freestyle relay, her teammates gathered to watch. All eyes were on Duckworth, racing in the event that was the last one in the day for Newport Harbor High.

Duckworth knew what was at stake in the Battle of the Bay girls' swimming meet against Corona del Mar last week. She remembered how Coach Brian Melstrom drew it up before any competitor jumped in the pool.

In Melstrom's eyes, the final event was going to decide whether the Sailors won or lost. None of the two was going to happen.

On the third leg, Catherine Carpenter gave the Sailors a slight lead before Duckworth dove in. She was working with a half-a-second edge, enough to convince her of one thing.

"I just knew that there was no way we could let them beat us," Duckworth said.

The sophomore made sure of it. One of the youngest in the water held off the nearest challenger. The Sailors finished first in the 400 freestyle relay in 3 minutes, 39.60 seconds, capping a come-from-behind tie.

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Yes, that is right. The Back Bay rivals finished dead even at the end. On the books the meet was an 85-85 tie, but to Duckworth it was much more than that for Newport Harbor.

"We considered it a win," said Duckworth, adding that the Sailors raced without Maddy McLaren (back injury) and Sarah Wilkey (ill).

"It was a great way to end the meet."

Melstrom hopes this is the start of something new for Duckworth, the Daily Pilot Athlete of the Week.

Sure, she helped the 400 freestyle relay record a season-best mark, as well as in the 200 free relay (1:41.77), and she produced first-place finishes in the 500 free (5:10.70) and 200 individual medley (2:11.11).

The last two are Duckworth's top individual events. Compared to last season, she has swum each of those events differently.

"Casey has not been … at her top level all year as she was last year. She was much faster last year," said Melstrom, who saw Duckworth as a freshman record a 2:05.83 in the 200 IM and a 4:57.01 in the 500 free, times she has not come close to this season. "I'm hoping that in the next two weeks here we build [on] something special and she can get back to where she was."

Duckworth will have to turn it up a notch as the Sunset League preliminaries are on Wednesday at Newport Harbor. The league finals are on Friday.

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