Charlotte’s Olympian Berens looks to improve on early results at UltraSwim

sfowler@charlotteobserver.comMay 10, 2013 


Kathleen Baker, 16, of SwimMAC Carolina, competes in the Women's 50 backstroke Friday night during the UltraSwim meet at the Mecklenburg Aquatic Center. Baker, who lives in Huntersville, finished with a time of 29.04.

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One Charlotte Olympian had a disappointing result Friday night, but another possible future Olympian who now lives in Huntersville had a fine evening at the UltraSwim.

Ricky Berens, the two-time gold medalist from Charlotte, finished fourth in a standout field in the men’s 200 freestyle. Berens won that event at this meet last year, upsetting Michael Phelps, and led it for the first 100 meters Friday.

But then – in a field bulging with seven 2012 Olympians – Berens was chased down in the last half of the race by Matt McLean, Conor Dwyer and Joseph Schooling. Those swimmers finished 1-2-3, with McLean winning in 1:49.02, while Berens ended up fourth with what was for him a pedestrian time of 1:49.50. Ryan Lochte was sixth in the same race.

“I would have liked to have been a lot faster than that, but that’s the way it is,” Berens said.

When someone jokingly asked Berens how his “retirement” was going after the race – Berens briefly retired after the 2012 Olympics – he said: “After that it’s like I’m still retired – or should be.”

Berens said his training has been “inconsistent,” but he still has two events left in the meet and said he was particularly looking forward to the 100 free.

On the other hand, 16-year-old Kathleen Baker of SwimMAC Carolina looks poised to break onto the national scene. She finished in the top five in two events Friday – fourth in the 400 individual medley and fifth in the 50 backstroke. She also was 12th in the 100 breaststroke, and in all three events she swam the best times of her brief career.

“My favorite was the 400 IM because I was next to Elizabeth Beisel (who won), and it was sort of cool to race an Olympian,” Baker said. “I went out fast to stay with her. And even though I didn’t finish that close to her, I would like to say I was with her for some part of it.”

Baker lived in Winston-Salem and went to a private school until the end of 2011, when she moved to Huntersville so she could train with SwimMAC. Considered one of the program’s rising stars, especially in the backstroke, she is a home-schooled high school sophomore.

•  Jessica Hardy won two events – the 50 and 100 breaststroke. Mike Alexandrov swept the same two events on the men’s side. Hardy is one of the most versatile swimmers in the U.S., as she is also a world-class freestyler. Chase Kalisz, 19, also had an excellent win in the men’s 400 IM, swimming the final in 4:15.66 and winning the event by nearly eight seconds. Olympic medalists Allison Schmitt and Dana Vollmer both earned wins as well.

UltraSwim continues through the weekend at the Mecklenburg Aquatic Center in uptown.

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