By Phillip Whitten
June 25. TWO Masters swimmers, competing in USA Swimming meets on opposite ends of the country, obliterated US Masters and world Masters records – and made quite an impression on the youngsters against whom they were competing.
Forty year-old Beth Baker, Curl-Burke, and 39 year-old Caroline Krattli, Unattached from San Diego, were the two barrier breakers. Strangely, while their performances will be recognized as USMS (national) records, under FINA rules Masters world marks can only be set in Masters meets. So both women will hold American records faster than the world records.
Competing at the North Baltimore Aquatic Club Long Course Championships, held June 15 – 18 at the Meadowbrook Aquatic Center in Mt. Washington, Maryland, Baker clocked 2:29.92 in the prelims of the 200m butterfly, to break Suzanne Heim-Bowen's mark of 2:32.13 for women 40-44, set in August 1999. Baker, who said she was inspired by michael Phelps and qualified first in prelims, did not swim in finals because it was Father's Day and she wanted to be with her family.
Baker's time would have placed her fourth in the finals. The event was won by 15 year-old Emily Goetsch in 2:20.59. Goetsch also won the 100 fly.
Additionally, Baker missed breaking Sandy Neilson-Bell's 50m free record by only 7-hundredths of a second, swimming 27.46 to the 1972 Olympic champion's 27.39. Her prelim time, however, would have won the finals. It must have seemed strange to some of Baker's opponents to be beaten to the wall by a woman older than their mothers!
"I was thrilled with the (50 free) swim because since focusing on the 200 fly and backstroke of late, I thought I had 'lost' my sprinting ability," Baker told swiminfo. "I'm glad to say I was wrong. I had thought that (Nelsen-Bell's 50 free record) to be untouchable, but now it establishes a great goal for me – one which I would be most proud to attain, given Sandy's status as an Olympian and great Masters athlete."
Caroline Krattli didn't win her event at the TYR Meet of Champions in Mission Viejo, California, yesterday. But the 39 year-old Masters ace certainly made her presence known.
Competing in the 100m breaststroke, Krattli swam 1:14.85 in prelims to qualify eighth. The time destroyed her own American and world mark of 1:16.36 for women 35-39 set just last year. No other woman over 35 has ever cracked 1:17.
The new mark didn't last long. In the finals, Krattli split 36.42 at the 50, then came roaring back to touch in seventh place in 1:14.68 – about three seconds behind the winner.