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Correia wins gold despite asthma

An attack that forced her to pull out of two events didn't stop the TBT grad from taking winning the 18-and-under 50-meter freestyle.

Despite battling an asthma attack for most of the U.S. Senior National Swimming Championships last week at the University of Minnesota, Maritza Correia dug deep to win the 18-and-under 50 meter freestyle title. It was her first gold medal at a national championship.

Her time of 25.99 seconds edged Nicole Haislett's best 18-and-under time of 26.12 set in August, 1991.

The fastest women's time was by Amy Van Dyken, 26, at 25.13. Van Dyken is a Colorado Springs resident and member of the national team.

Overall, Correia was fifth in the 50 and seventh in the 100 freeat 56.66.

Because of her breathing struggles, she was unable to compete in the 400 free or 800 free relay.

"This was my first gold medal in four years of qualifying for the senior nationals," Correia said. "Except for the asthma attack, this meet was exciting. It is really impossible to compete in the pool at this level when breathing is a struggle. Maybe next year I will do even better."

Correia, 17, has been a member of the Brandon Swim and Tennis Club's Blue Wave Swim Team for nearly 10 years. She has won numerous state, regional and junior national titles.

Although her best events are the freestyle sprints, she is multi-talented and can compete on a championship level with all strokes.

This year, she accepted a full scholarship to swim for the University of Georgia and reports to Athens for practice Aug. 23.

"Maritza's leadership will be greatly missed by her Blue Wave teammates," assistant coach Bud Bowden said. "Because of her strenuous work ethic, she has always been a great role model for the younger swimmers.

"When she is training for a big meet on a state, regional or national level, she swims an hour and a half early each weekday morning and two more each afternoon. Then on Saturdays she comes in for a two- or three-hour workout."

In her sophomore, junior and senior years at Tampa Bay Tech, she won six state championships _ in the 50, 100, 200, and 500 free, plus the 200 individual medley.

She was also the Times Hillsborough County female Swimmer of the Year last year.

"I have several goals for my college years," Correia said. "First I want to qualify for the NCAA meet my first season and help my new teammates win the national collegiate team championship again next season. I want to do well in pre-medical studies and when I finish college I want to be the fastest freestyle sprinter in the world.

"I will miss my Blue Wave teammates, but I will come back to visit and swim with them when I can."

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