Hoff, 14, puts on show of her own at Loyola

Age-group records raise her two-day total to four

Swimming

December 14, 2003|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

The North Baltimore Aquatic Club has sent a precocious teenager to each of the past three Olympiads.

Anita Nall won relay gold in 1992, Beth Botsford ruled the 100 backstroke in 1996 and Michael Phelps made his international debut in 2000.

Katie Hoff has a chance to extend that run.

Phelps can take over a meet, but Hoff is making an impression at the NBAC's 30th annual Christmas Invitational. Last night, the 14-year-old from Abingdon set two national age-group records and joined her new teammates for another in a relay.

That's four national age-group records in two days at Loyola College for Hoff, and five in a 10-day span that began at the U.S. Open in Seattle.

Hoff began last night's haul by shaving more than nine seconds off her personal best in the 400-yard individual medley, where she dipped to 4 minutes, 11.66 seconds, bettering a mark for 13-14 girls that was set earlier this year.

About 35 minutes later, she bettered the age-group record in the 200-yard breaststroke, a performance that had more resonance.

Hoff came home in 2:12.08, breaking a record that had stood since 1991. The previous holder was none other than Nall, who at days past her 16th birthday was the oldest of the NBAC's Olympic kiddie corps.

Hoff has been training with the NBAC's satellite team in Harford County only since late August.

Weeks earlier, she finished fourth in the 200 IM at the U.S. Summer Nationals in College Park, while competing for Typhoon Aquatics in Newport News, Va.

Her salesman father's territory extends from Virginia to New Jersey, and the family relocated from Williamsburg to ease his commute and give Katie a more strenuous training environment.

"I knew about NBAC because of Beth [Botsford], and Anita [Nall]," said Hoff, who won't turn 15 until next June. "Of course, I was aware of Michael, too."

Besides Phelps, Hoff was familiar with the NBAC because of Courtney Kalisz, a regional rival turned training partner.

While Hoff had a pair of runner-up finishes at the U.S. Open last weekend that placed her among the nation's six fastest females in both the 200 and 400 IMs, Kalisz had a similar breakthrough in the 200 butterfly.

"Courtney is just as much a player as Katie," said Paul Yetter, their coach.

The home-schooled Hoff teamed with Kalisz, an eighth-grader at Fallston Middle; Allison Barnes, a C. Milton Wright freshman who is the state 3A cross country champion; and Bel Air High sophomore Jackie Gonzalez in a high-powered 800 freestyle relay.

That was the NBAC's "B" team. The "A" team had national butterfly champion Emily Goetsch, Claire Hutchinson, Ellen Brooks and Meghan Sackett, but the primed youngsters won in 7:31.98, beating a 25-year-old NAG record set by a Mission Viejo (Calif.) foursome in 1978.

Phelps, who is still setting national age-group records in the 17-18 category, by the way, had another hat trick as he won the 50 freestyle in 20.15 seconds; shaved more than two seconds off his personal best in the 200 breaststroke with a 1:57.33, and took the 500 free in 4:18.69.

The meet concludes tonight, when Phelps goes for another personal best, in the 1650 freestyle.

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