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Puerto Rican transplant a welcome addition to Newsome's swim team

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Tue. November 2, 2010 | Adam Berry

Puerto Rican transplant a welcome addition to Newsome's swim team

LITHIA — Before Newsome coach Chau Clark first met Barbara Caraballo on the pool deck at the FishHawk Aquatic Club, she had heard about the Puerto Rican native’s incredible talent. It didn’t take Clark much longer to recognize Caraballo’s ability in the water.

But it wasn’t until Oct. 8, when many of the state’s best teams convened at the FSPA meet in Orlando, that Clark fully understood just how gifted her sophomore phenom was. The 15-year-old surprised everyone but herself by finishing first in the 200 IM (2:05.19) and 100 breaststroke (1:06.02), leading the Wolves to an unexpected third-place finish.

“I knew her times prior to that. I looked up some of her times in some of the big meets in Puerto Rico. I knew what she was capable of,” Clark said. “Seeing her swim in prelims, I realized she could walk the walk and not just talk the talk. And she definitely did that.”

While she is admittedly still adjusting to life as an American student, moving to Florida from Puerto Rico earlier this year with her father and brother, Caraballo has found no trouble making the transition to a high school swim team. Caraballo said the main reason she moved was the number of athletic opportunities available in the United States.

“We all actually moved because of my swimming,” said Caraballo, who has been swimming since she was 5. “We knew we’d have more chances here than we’d have back there.”

Even before coming to Florida, Caraballo had a legitimate shot to swim for Puerto Rico in the 2012 Olympics. At the Central American and Caribbean Games in July, she won a bronze medal in the 400 IM for her home country with a time of 5:01.77 — the fastest in Puerto Rico — and a silver medal as part of the 400-meter relay team. She said her times in the 200 IM (2:21.86) and 100 fly (1:02) are also the best in the country.

“I can tell you this: I would not doubt that she will be swimming in the 2012 Olympics,” Clark said.

Added Caraballo: “That’s one of the reasons I came here. I think I’m going to go.”

After some more time in America, Clark thinks Caraballo could become even faster and better prepared for an Olympic run. The coach said she couldn’t remember a single individual event where someone was ahead of Caraballo at any time — even at the FSPA meet. Caraballo said she tends to swim up to her competition, and with the region and state meets approaching, she could again surprise her coaches and teammates.

“If there was actually a swimmer there who was right there or slightly ahead of her, I wonder what her times could be,” Clark said. “Great swimmer, beautiful stroke, powerful, and that mentality of, ‘You’re not going to beat me,’ is going to take her very far.”

Region swim meets
3A-2

When: Saturday, 9 a.m.
Where: Selby Aquatics Center (YMCA), Sarasota
Diving: Saturday, 9 a.m.

2A-3
When: Friday, 9 a.m.
Where: North Shore Aquatic Complex, Tarpon Springs
Diving: Thursday, 1 p.m.

A-3
When: Friday, 9 a.m.
Where: Selby Aquatics Center (YMCA), Sarasota
Diving: Thursday, 9 a.m.

Teams in post

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