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Swimming: All Robertson does is win

SwimmingTrack and FieldWater PoloClubs and AssociationsYMCA

All she does is win, win, win, no matter what.

Newport Harbor High senior Marissa Robertson can relate to that DJ Khaled song. This year in the pool, she has been unbeatable for the Sailors girls' swim team.

Robertson has won all of her individual races all year long. The 50-yard freestyle, 100 free, 100 breaststroke, 100 butterfly? No problem. On Tuesday in a Sunset League meet against Marina, Robertson even threw in the 200-yard individual medley for good measure.

"I don't usually swim 200s," Robertson said the next day, able to laugh because she again touched first, before any of her competition. "I didn't really notice [the streak] until [Newport Coach Brian Melstrom] pointed it out. I definitely love racing. I like to win. I definitely feel like I race up, so if I have someone who's going to be pushing me, that's when I do my best."

Robertson is a four-year varsity swimmer for Melstrom's Sailors. She's also a club swimmer for the Newport-Mesa YMCA, where she's had the same coach, Craig Bluell, for a decade.

Robertson is one of four Newport girls' club swimmers from the YMCA of Orange County Sea Lions, the others being juniors Natalie Molstad and Morganne Goodson and freshman Cassidy Bucklin. But Robertson is also a bit of a rarity, the top club swimmer who trains with her high school team during the spring season.

Many other club swimmers only show up to the high school team on meet days. But Robertson is there with the other Sailors, mostly primarily water polo players, for practice.

"Honestly, I enjoy the 10 weeks at Harbor," Robertson said. "It's nice to kind of change teams for a little bit. When you're with people for the other 42 weeks out of the year, it's nice to change sometimes. I love the [water polo] girls and I'll definitely miss them ... if everybody else is going to suffer through it, I'm part of the team too. I should do the practices with them."

Robertson, who will swim and study animal sciences at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, has had plenty to enjoy this year. She has come a long way in her four years at Newport Harbor.

As a freshman, she said she was pretty shy. It helped that Robertson's older sister, Emily, was a senior on the team. And Marissa did show promise. She set the then-school record in the 200 free relay, as Robertson, Zoe Robles, Casey Duckworth and Carly Christian swam a 1:39.40. Robertson, Christian, Carlee Kapana and Allyson Hall lowered the record to 1:38.20 last year at league finals.

Marissa quickly discovered that the training would be a lot different in high school.

"Transitioning to five days a week with morning practices was definitely a struggle," she said. "I worked out mostly with the JV for workouts, because I couldn't make all the sets. But I think pushing through it definitely made me a stronger swimmer. I definitely had a lot of improvements that year."

Robertson has kept improving. In a sense, she is keeping up the strong family aquatics tradition at Harbor. Her father, George, played water polo for the Sailors. So did her uncle, Kevin, who went on to be a four-time All-American at Cal and a two-time Olympian. Kevin Robertson was the co-CIF Player of the Year on the 1975 Harbor team, generally considered one of the top prep water polo teams ever assembled. He is a member of the USA Water Polo Hall of Fame.

"Growing up, I guess they probably stuck me in a pool as soon as they could," Marissa Robertson said. "Then swim lessons started, then swim team. Yeah, I've always been around the water."

Robertson has grown throughout her time with the Sailors. In the Marina meet Tuesday, she captured both the 100 breast and 200 IM. Robertson was also on two winning relays, the medley relay with Goodson, Kapana and Kate Pipkin, as well as the 400 free relay with Kapana, Pipkin and Kate Yasko.

Robertson sets a good example for all of her teammates, Melstrom said.

"She's hands down the best overall swimmer I've ever had," he said. "There's not a lot of girls that can match her technique off the starting blocks, on her turns, and coming into the wall. She's very long and lean, very technical, and that's a tribute to the YMCA."

Newport Harbor went 2-3 in league dual meets. The Sailors are preparing for the Sunset League finals, with preliminaries Wednesday and finals Friday at the Sailors' pool. Robertson said she is leaning toward swimming the 50 free and 100 butterfly at league finals.

Robertson has been gunning for the 50 free school record this year. Kate Klippert has the record, 23.49 seconds, set in 2009. Klippert also had the luxury of a full body suit when she swam that time. Now there are more restrictions on the "fast suits." They can't go past the knees, or cover the shoulders.

Robertson possibly has a couple of more meets to challenge Klippert's time. Her personal best in the event is a 23.95, set earlier this year in a club meet.

"I feel like I've been a lot more consistent with that event," Robertson said. "Last year, it was kind of like, 24 [seconds], 25, 26, 24, but I've been low 24s throughout the year. I'm hoping that with a fast suit and some good competition and a good attitude, maybe I can [challenge] that time."

There are other goals in reach. Melstrom said Robertson has yet to win an event at league finals. That could change this year, and another goal of hers is to make it to the CIF Southern Section Division 1 finals. Robertson has competed at the CIF preliminaries in each of her first three years, but never made it back for the finals.

Eventually, the streak of not losing a race all year will likely end.

But until then, never count her out. And know that you can find her training at the Sailors' pool, with her high school teammates.

"Marissa goes through the day-to-day struggle with the team," Melstrom said. "I think it's definitely increased the overall respect for her from the water polo girls, and I respect her tremendously for doing that."

Marissa Robertson

Born: June 18, 1996

Hometown: Newport Beach

Height: 5-foot-7

Sport: Swimming

Year: Senior

Coach: Brian Melstrom

Favorite food: Cheeseburger

Favorite movie: "Lord of the Rings" trilogy

Favorite athletic moment: Last February, qualifying her 100-yard freestyle for the YMCA nationals by swimming a 53.21 at YMCA league championships in El Monte.

Week in review: Robertson won the 100-yard butterfly and 100 breaststroke in a Sunset League meet against Los Alamitos, staying undefeated on the season.

[For the record, 9:55 a.m. May 5: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that Robertson swam the 50 free at the Marina meet. It was actually the 100 breast. Also, in her favorite athletic moment, her time at the YMCA league championships in the 100-yard freestyle was 53:21.]

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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