By Betsy Durrant
April 24. FORTY YEAR-OLD Beth (O'Connor) Baker has been ripping up the record book in the women's 40-44 age group of late, smashing records considered some of the toughest in the record book.
In a six-week period she set no fewer than nine USMS records and four world marks.
At the Maryland Masters meet at UMBC on Feb. 24-25, Baker set national USMS marks for all three individual medley events. In the 100 yard IM she clocked 1:02.69, breaking the old record of 1:02.91 set by 1972 Olympian Sandy Neilsen-Bell. In the 200 IM she swam 2:15.51, slashing more than a second-and-a-half off neilsen-Bell's 2:17.08. In the 400 IM, her 4:49.61 was more than five seconds under the old mark set by Laura Val.
A week later, Baker was at it again, this time at the
USA Swimming Potomac Valley Senior Championships, March 2-4, 2001. Swimming the 100 yard fly, she clocked 58.56, erasing Laura Val's 59.22 record.
On March 31, Baker had a field day at the Ancient Mariners Albatross Open, a short course meters meet, stroking to four USMS and world Masters records.
First she clocked 1:05.49 for the 100m fly, erasing Jill Hernandez's record of 1:05.69. Unofficially, Baker split 29.99 at the 50, under Hernandez's 50 standard of 30.15.
Less than an hour later, she came back to slash Laura Val's 200m mark of 2:29.19, with a 2:26.15, a time she feels she can lower. Then she completed her sweep of the fly records by taking the 50 down to 29.68.
For good measure, she put up a 1:09.20 mark in the 100m IM, almost two seconds faster than the record of 1:11.13 set by Australia's Jenny Whitely.
Finally, on April 7, she lopped more than three seconds off Patty Landers' USMS record of 2:16.96 in the 200 yard backstroke. Baker's time: 2:13.72.
Over the years, Baker has consistently placed in the top two or three in all her events at USMS Nationals and among the top 10 nationally each year. She won six events in '88 at U. Texas Masters Nationals as Beth O'Connor. She says: "Until Tracie Moll came along, I consistently won fly/sprint free events."
Baker, who swims for Curl-Burke Swim Club at USA Swimming meets, has one child, a 3 1/2-yr old son, Ryan O'Connor Bake.
She swam for the University of Virginia in college. Growing up in Richmond, Virginia, she represented the Commonwealth Aquatic Club Rams.