Hoff's U.S. record one-ups Phelps' victory

NBAC swimmer's 2:11.24 is 200 IM mark

early pace saves Phelps in 400 free

Swimming

April 02, 2005|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN STAFF

INDIANAPOLIS - With tufts of brown hair peeking from under his swim cap, Michael Phelps grabbed the lead and set a blistering early pace last night in the men's 400-meter freestyle at the World Championship Trials at the Indiana University Natatorium.

But it was fellow Baltimore native Katie Hoff in the women's 200 individual medley who brought home an American long-course record.

Both swimmers won their finals - Phelps in 3:47.79 and Hoff in the American-record time of 2:11.24 to earn spots on the U.S. team that will compete in the world championships in Montreal July 17-31.

Hoff, 15, swimming for the North Baltimore Aquatic Club, had a glorious run in the 50-meter pool, taking the lead on the first, butterfly lap in 28.83. She followed that with a backstroke turn in 33.34, a breaststroke lap of 37.62 and the freestyle in 31.74 to beat the record held by Amanda Beard by .46 of a second.

Beard was supposed to swim here this week but pulled out of all events yesterday morning.

"My goal was to do my best time," said Hoff, smiling broadly before heading to the cool-down pool. "But [the possibility of setting an American record] was in the back of my mind."

Whitney Myers finished second in 2:15.82 and favorite Kaitlin Sandeno was third in 2:14.32.

"I'm not surprised Katie did her best time or that she won," said her NBAC coach, Paul Yetter. "She's a terrific worker and very fast in practice, and she always wants to do well."

Hoff, a member of last year's Olympic team, swam the third-fastest time in the world this year (2:13.52) to earn the top seeding for last night's final.

Yetter said his hope is that he and Hoff will be able to determine what her strongest strokes are at this meet, in which she is signed up for six events.

Phelps, 19 and swimming for Club Wolverine and the NBAC, was under world-record time for the first three laps, recording times of 25.48, 27.45 and 28.31 before slowing and finishing in 3:55.70.

Asked how he felt over the last 100 meters, Phelps laughed.

"The question is how did I feel over the final 200 meters," he said. "Horrible. My arms and my legs were in total pain. I didn't feel like I was moving at all, and I could see them closing.

"But this is a starting place, and I can look forward to going faster at worlds. I'm looking forward to the relays and being an important part of winning. I have some hard work to do over the next three months."

Peter Vanderkaay finished second in 3:49.38 and Justin Mortimer was third in 3:50.98.

"I knew I had to be out [front]," Phelps said. "I knew after the morning swim if I laid back nothing would happen. So I pushed out pretty big. Bob [coach Bob Bowman] said it was under world-record pace for the first 150 meters."

Then he just held on.

Phelps is trying to find out where he is in his conditioning and in the healing of his back, which suffered stress-related problems last October and has continued to concern him.

"I wanted him to go out aggressively and be in control of the race," said Bowman. "He was out really fast - too fast. He's not at the peak level of training, but he showed guts, that he was willing to take the chance."

While swimmers such as Ian Thorpe, who holds the world record in the 400 freestyle, have decided to take this year off from competition, Bowman said he did not want that kind of relaxation for Phelps.

"I want him to do some different things," Bowman said. "But I want him to do meets. He thrives on meets. He can't just train for a year."

Among the things Bowman has done is to decide Phelps will not swim the 400 IM, in which he holds the American and world records. Bowman said he knew before last year's Olympics that he would not have Phelps swim that event this year.

Instead, Phelps will swim a diverse program the coach believes will strengthen his individual strokes and, in the end, make him better in the 400 IM.

But yesterday morning, Phelps almost didn't make the 400 freestyle final. He had less than a second to spare in his qualifying time.

"He wasn't in a bad mood after that," said Bowman, "but he felt like I did, that he hadn't learned anything. He was so far ahead, he didn't know how slow he was."

Phelps was swimming in an early qualifier with slower swimmers because he had not had long-course times in the event in more than a year.

Last night, the competition got tougher and so did Phelps.

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