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For Kate Ziegler, the Future Is Now -- December 12, 2004

FAIRFAX, Virginia, December 12. SHE'S not in college yet, but a certain 16-year-old distance specialist named Katie Ziegler from the FISH team is already poised to make a mighty splash when she eventually joins the college ranks.

During the Tom Dolan Winter Invitational this weekend at The FISH's home pool (George Mason University's Aquatic and Fitness Center), Katie roiled the waters of the pool to a boil with her 4:38.62 500 yard free and 15:47.20 1650 swims.

Were she in college, both clockings would easily be nation-leading times. As it is, Ziegler will have to be content with having swum times that may well NOT be bettered at NCAAs next spring at Purdue and focus her thoughts on making the United States' team to the World Championships when the Trials open the first week of April in Indianapolis.

Interestingly, Ziegler's outstanding times are NOT national age-group records. In the 500 the standard is 4:36.25 by former Nashville Aquatics "all-worlder," Tracy Caulkins. TC swam what was then also the American record at the AAU Championships in Monterey Park (East Los Angeles College) in April of 1979 -- the only time she ever swam that race in major competition.

(Caulkins, a noted breaststroker-butterflyer-IMer, was gold-medalist at the 1978 World Championships in West Berlin, tying the then 200 fly WR of 2:09.87. She lost a shot at Olympic gold two years later in Moscow due to the U.S.-led boycott, then swam for the University of Florida. She splashed to a fistful of golds and set innumerable collegiate records for the Gators, then climaxed her career with golds in the 200-400 individual medleys at the Los Angeles Big O's in '84. (Caulkins eventually married Australian sprinter Mark Stockwell, a silver medalist in the 100 free in '84.)

The 1650 free 15-16 NAG record belongs to Mission Viejo's Tiffany Cohen, with her 15:46.54 from the '83 U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis. (Until the late '80s, the US spring championship was swum as a short course yards competition.) Cohen also was 500 champ in 4:37.84. Despite her great success later as a collegian for Texas Coach Richard Quick's Texas Longhorns, where she became a multiple-NCAA champion, Cohen never bettered those times from Indy.

Cohen was also a double Olympic gold medalist in the 400-800 frees at Los Angeles.

On the all-time list, Ziegler's 500 ranks her 21st performances, 14th performer -- but third on both as a 16-year-old.

In the 1650 she's ninth (performances) and fifth (performers). On the 15-16 all-time NAG list, she ranks second.

Former Stanford NCAA champ Janet Evans holds the American/NCAA records in the 500-1650 fresh from the '90 NCAAs at Texas with her 4:34.39-15:29.14 clockings. Evans was a triple gold medalist at the Seoul Olympics (400-800 frees, 400 IM) and won the 400 at Barcelona four years later.

Although it may be somewhat of an inexact comparison, when Evans was 16 in '88 she set a world-record in the 1500 meter freestyle at that winter's U.S. Nationals in Orlando (March) with her 15:53.10. The record still stands today, 16 years later, and Evans remains the only woman ever under 16:00.0 -- having done it two other times as well.

Last summer Ziegler had a breakthrough season despite not making the Olympic team. She finaled in both the 400-800 frees at the Olympic Trials (prs 4:11.85-8:30.91) and won the mile at the USS Championships last February with her pr 16:20.45 -- second-best American for the year. (Kalyn Keller, sister of Athens 400 free bronze-medalist Klete, is tops with her 16:19.34.) That time ranks her fourth globally.

In the 400 Ziegler will finish this year as seventh-fastest American, fourth in the 800 (11th globally).

Among active competitors, Rigamonti, a Swiss Olympian, ranks No. 1 on the yards lists with her 4:37.72 - 15:40.41 clockings.

For Kate Ziegler, it would appear that as a certain prominent former NFL head coach was wont to say, "The future is now."