Burkot makes splash as 13th-year coach of UMBC swim team

Goh and Addadi approach qualifying times for NCAAs

Colleges

State notebook

January 21, 2000|By Christian Ewell | Christian Ewell,SUN STAFF

In his 13th season at UMBC, swimming coach Sid Burkot might have finally had his ship come in.

As usual, Burkot's men's and women's teams are doing well. In particular, the men's team has a 5-2 record in dual meets and had a fourth-place finish at a tough Penn State Invitational last month.

But one thing the Retrievers haven't had is an NCAA qualifier, and the team might produce two this season.

Junior Kevin Goh and sophomore Mehdi Addadi are both nearing qualifying times for the national meet, which takes place March 23-25 in Seattle.

So far, the program's biggest success has come at the Eastern College Athletic Conference championships, which it has won the past two seasons. Moving beyond that would add visibility and attract a higher caliber of swimmer.

"It would give us a step up in recruiting," Burkot said. "Every year, we do something special to move up. But we've been on auto pilot the past three years and we'd like to break into the national scene."

"To be nationally recognized, we have to send someone to NCAAs," Goh said. "If we do that, that will put us on the map and more seniors will recognize us."

Goh and Addadi came to Catonsville from Jacksonville, Fla., and the Bolles School, widely regarded as the top prep swimming program in the country.

Five Bolles products currently swim for UMBC's teams, attracted by its position as an alternative to taking subordinate positions at colleges with higher profiles.

Goh said he came because of a desire to get away from home. Addadi -- who qualified for the 2000 Olympics last summer by winning the All-Africa Games in the 100 backstroke -- found the UMBC program through word-of-mouth.

"I liked the way he [Berkot] presented the program," Addadi said. "Plus, I heard from other swimmers that he was an excellent coach, and that was a good reason to come to UMBC."

Meanwhile, the swimming teams at UMBC aren't the only ones having success this winter. Though swimming against a lesser schedule, the Towson women's team is undefeated after eight meets heading into tomorrow's1 p.m. meet at Delaware.

Diver and South Carroll product Kasey Stroup qualified for the NCAAs last weekend during the Tigers' meet against Drexel.

Over at Johns Hopkins, both the men and women are ranked in the top five among Division III schools, the men ranked No. 2 and the women ranked No. 3. Krissy Brinsley (200 IM and 200 back), Steph Harbeson (1,650 free) are among the Blue Jays women who have qualified for NCAAs, and Scott Armstrong (1,650 free, 500 free) and Justin Brannock (100, 200 free) have done so for the men.

Loyola losing Strong

While the fate of Loyola men's basketball star Jason Rowe remains up in the air, there's one key player who isn't coming back to the Greyhounds program.

Clifford Strong, hailed as a recruiting steal when he came to Evergreen from Brooklyn, N.Y., said this week that he plans to enroll at St. Francis of N.Y.

Rowe, the Greyhounds' leading scorer, was suspended Jan. 13 for academic reasons.

Strong, who played 20 games for the Greyhounds over two years before a medial collateral ligament knee injury ended his sophomore season in December, wanted to play for a team more eager to run, and he realized that the team he'd signed on with two years ago -- now on a four-game losing streak -- may have lacked the temperament of a winner.

But most of all, he said homesickness and the failing health of his 64-year-old mother, Roxanne, spurred a departure shortly after Christmas.

"My mom is getting up in age," Strong said, noting that his mother is planning to move to Kentucky at the end of this year. "I made the decision that I'd rather be close to her and spend more time with her."

The move was puzzling to those at Loyola, given Strong's success in the classroom (after being ineligible during his first semester) and the opportunity to rehabilitate his knee at the school's cost if he would only stick around until school ends in May.

Plus, while Strong said his knee will be ready by the time he's eligible to play again in January 2001, concern about the reported extent of the injury -- requiring repair of the meniscus, and to tears of the MCL and ACL -- might have frightened schools who would have been interested.

"We're very disappointed that he's not coming back, but mostly for his own sake," Loyola coach Dino Gaudio said.

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