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Larsen Wins 1,500 Freestyle on Final Day of Swim Meet

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Alexis Larsen saved the best for last Tuesday, winning the 1,500-meter freestyle during the final session of the five-day National Junior Olympics West championships at the Mission Viejo International Swimming Complex.

Larsen, 14, of the Calabasas-based CLASS Aquatics, was clocked in 16 minutes 51.63 seconds, the 12th-fastest time in the world this year. With her performance, she qualified for Senior Nationals, Aug. 12-16 in Fort. Lauderdale, Fla.

“That is a top-eight time there (at Senior Nationals) if she can do it again,” CLASS Coach Bud McAllister said. “Although it is difficult to swim back-to-back meets like that.”

The only other Valley-area swimmer to win a title in the meet was Ben Swartout, 17, of the Buena Swim Club, who took the men’s 400 freestyle Monday. Swartout was clocked in 4:02.06, one second slower than the 4:01.07 he recorded in the preliminaries.

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Swartout needed a 4:00.89 to qualify for Senior Nationals.

“I thought this was one of my stronger efforts but I didn’t get (a qualifying time) like I was expecting to,” Swartout said. “I think I wasn’t out fast enough. I don’t think I raced the first half real hard.”

Swartout did earn a trip to the Senior Nationals with his effort in the 800 on Friday, however. His second-place time of 8:19.91 was slightly faster than the meet standard of 8:20.59.

While Swartout will have to settle for one event at Senior Nationals, Larsen will swim both the 400 and 800 freestyle races in Florida. CLASS teammates Jason Stelle of Westlake Village, Chris Baskett and Nikki Hudson also have qualified for the meet.

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Hudson, 16, swam the 1,500 on Tuesday, clocking a 17:16.46, good for ninth place.

Two of Swartout’s Buena teammates placed in the top 16 in the meet. Chris Pelant, 15, was sixth in the 200 freestyle in 1:55.85 and Joe Gustafson, 16, was 12th in the 100 breaststroke in 1:07.54.

Conejo Simi Aquatics placed one swimmer in the finals, 16-year-old Valery Calkins.

She finished fourth in the 400 freestyle in 4:21.98, 2.4 seconds behind the champion, Dee Brown of Parkway Swim Club in suburban St. Louis.

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