By Arlene Douglas, Swim With a Purpose Magazine
PISCATAWAY, New Jersey, January 17. THE Burgdorff ERA Invitational, held Jan. 12-14, provided the opportunity for some of America's top swimmers to compete long course during the short course season. Twenty four Olympic Trial qualifying times were swum by athletes representing such teams as the North Baltimore Aquatic Club, the Germantown Academy Aquatic Club, the Bluefish Swim Club and WST Swimming.
The Berkeley Aquatic Club has hosted the Burgdorff Era Invitational for 16 years now. The meet took place at the Sonny Werblin Natatorium at Rutgers University in Piscataway, N.J.
"The most important season is the long course season and athletes need to be given the opportunity to compete long course, even if they cannot train long course," USA Swimming President and Berkeley's head coach Jim Wood said.
The meet attracts Olympians and other nationally-ranked swimmers who often provide spectacular performances. This year, Katie Hoff was the star attraction, clocking Olympic trial qualifying times in the six events she swam in evening finals, with four of them—the 100 and 200 free as well as the 200 and 400 IM—being meet records. When she was not breaking records, she could be seen signing autographs and taking pictures with excited fans in her exclusive colorful Fastskins.
Hoff's teammates, Courtney Kalisz and Dan Madwed, also entered the record books—Kalisz for the women's 200 fly and Madwed for his upset swim in the men's 400 free, and his preliminary swim in the 100 fly.
The 14-and-unders swam timed finals in the afternoon and provided a number of remarkable swims. In the youngest category, 10-year-old Ryan Nicholson of the Lansing Cats broke the meet record in the 100 free previously held by Michael Phelps. He also bettered the meet record in the 200 free. Meanwhile, Trevor Hine of North Baltimore set a record in the 200 IM.
One age group up, 11-year-old Lia Neal of the Asphalt Green Unified Aquatics swam the 50 and 100 free in meet-record times. Meanwhile, Kevin Jung, 12, of the Scarlet Aquatic Club broke the record in the 50 fly.
In the 13-14 category, Lauren Ross of Berkeley upset top seed Laura Harris of North Baltimore in the 200 free for the win in a meet-record time, and claimed another record in the 400 free. Harris claimed the gold in the 50 and 100 free in meet-record times. Kyle Madley of the Madison Area YMCA displayed his talent in his record-setting swims in the 50 free and 100 fly.
Two 13-14 year olds, Elizabeth Beisel of the Bluefish and Elizabeth Pelton of North Baltimore swam in the senior open events and clocked Olympic Trial qualifying times. Beisel's swim in the women's 200 back lowered the record she set last year.
By far the most exciting relay to watch was the match-up between North Baltimore and Germantown in the women's 800 free. After the third leg of the relay, at which point Germantown's Katie Riefenstahl, Claire Crippen and Lauren Sylvester had swum a full six seconds faster than North Baltimore's Laura Harris, Allison Barnes and Andrea Staub, Hoff dove into the pool and with each stroke closed the gap. By the last lap, she overtook Teresa Crippen to win the relay for North Baltimore with .97 seconds to spare.
"It is important that an organization, like a parent group, is willing to run swim meets for the benefit of the athletes and not just to make money, because it is expensive to run long course meets in the winter," Wood said in praise of the Berkeley parents for putting on a great meet.
"It takes a combined total of 200 parent hours to set up before the meet and 600 parent hours to run the three-day competition," meet director Nancy King said.