Phelps, Hoff win

Peirsol sets record

Former NBAC teammates capture 200 freestyles

backstroker goes 53.17


April 03, 2005|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN STAFF

INDIANAPOLIS - Michael Phelps was in the cool-down pool when he heard that Aaron Peirsol had broken the world record for the 100-meter backstroke. And he had barely emerged from the water when his old North Baltimore Aquatic Club teammate, Katie Hoff, touched to win the women's 200 freestyle.

Phelps, who had won his own race, the men's 200 freestyle, here at the World Championship Trials, was joyful. He slapped Peirsol's hand and then raved about Hoff, who came from behind to win in 1 minute, 59.56 seconds, a career best by 2 1/2 seconds.

"North Baltimore has always had a tradition of excellence," said Phelps, who was timed in 1:46.44 in his race, a second off the American record he set at the Olympics. "She sets an American record last night and then comes back and wins tonight. She's swimming out of her mind right now. She's swimming better than I did at 15.

"And Peirsol is Peirsol. I asked him how it felt to set the record and he said, `I don't know how it feels.' But he just proved again he's one of the world's best backstrokers."

Peirsol broke his own world record of 53.45 with what he felt was a leisurely swim of 53.17.

"It's good that I'm still able to surprise myself," he said. "I had no idea. ... It's a little ridiculous. I don't think I'm in peak shape right now, which is very good for Montreal. I'm cool, man. I'm just glad it happened."

Peirsol, like Phelps and Hoff, will be part of the U.S. team that will compete in the world championships in Montreal July 17-31.

Hoff also expressed surprise at herself, saying she was "really shocked" to win.

"I came into this meet just wanting to make finals and make a relay," she said, after adding the 200-meter freestyle win to her record-setting performance in Friday's 200 individual medley. "I focus on myself and not others and all I try to do is improve at each meet."

She was seventh at the end of the first 50-meter lap and fifth after two. Then she started to pour it on, moving to first at the end of three and stretching out for victory over Mary Descenza (1:59.93).

"I was just trying to go and pass people," Hoff said.

Which made her coach, Paul Yetter, grin. "The fact she has won two races speaks for itself," said Yetter, who has Hoff entered in four more events here. "But we're not trying to do a grand statement. She's trying to win because it's the object of the game and every day at every practice she tries to produce her best times.

"Her best time in this event before tonight was last June, 2:02.1. This morning in prelims, she was 2:00.6, and tonight 1:59.5. That's 2 1/2 seconds. She's doing exactly what she's supposed to do."

As is Phelps, whose strategy these days is a little different from Hoff's. He led from start to finish in his race.

"I'm very happy with this time," he said. "I wanted to see how close I could get to my best time tonight. And it was great to get our old relay team back together, too, for the 800 relay this summer."

The top four finishers in the men's 200 freestyle last night also qualified as the national team's 800 relay team. Not surprisingly, it will be the same foursome who competed at the Olympics - Phelps, the University of Michigan's Peter Vanderkaay, Club Wolverine teammate Klete Keller and University of Florida rival Ryan Lochte.

Vanderkaay, who finished second in 1:48.27, produced his best time in the event. Keller, who considered himself retired until recently, could only smile at his 1:48.67 for third place.

"The relay in Athens was the highest point of my career," Keller said. "I thought it was time to move on, but I'm glad to be back with these guys."

Seeing so many best times from Michigan and North Baltimore swimmers was no surprise to coach Bob Bowman, the former North Baltimore coach who now heads the Michigan and Club Wolverine programs.

"What did Katie tell you?" he said. "They're always going for their best times. That's how they were brought up."

But Bowman said he is a little startled by Phelps' strong performance.

"Michael is taking the first step back to what he wants to do in 2008," Bowman said. "Considering all he has been through since the Olympics - good, bad and indifferent - the time he turned in tonight was very good.

"The fact he was only training for about 30 minutes a day in November and has been only in full training, and not really full training, for a couple months, to be just a second off makes me feel very good."

Phelps is scheduled to swim in the 100 butterfly today.

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