By Nathan Jendrick
FEDERAL WAY, Wash., March 15. ABNORMALLY beautiful weather, multiple victories and Pacific Northwest Swimming records were on tap this past weekend at the King County Aquatic Center in Federal Way, Washington. Several of the area's best swimmers took home first place medals in two or more events at the Western Sectional Championships of the Speedo Championship Series, held March 9-13.
Taking the breaststroke double was 2000 Olympian and double gold medalist Megan Jendrick (maiden name Quann). After taking seven months away from training after her near miss at making the 2004 Olympic Team at the United States Trials in July, she used this meet as a telling sign of where she stands after just nine weeks of training heading into the World Championships Trials.
Her time of 2:10.76 in prelims of the 200-yard breaststroke last Thursday broke the PNS and Sectional meet record of 2:15.24, set in 2003 by Caitlin Shortt. Her finals swim of 2:09.76 took the mark down further, out-distancing herself from the nearest competition by nearly five seconds.
Jendrick continued her winning ways on Saturday by taking down the meet record in the 100-yard breaststroke held by 2004 Olympian Tara Kirk at 1:02.70. Jendrick finished well ahead of the morning pack in 1:00.04. In the final, she closed the four-lap race even faster, touching in another meet and PNS record of 59.68. Her time makes her the third fastest all-time performer over the distance.
Picking up the distance events was David Pursley of BEST. He won the 1,650 free (15:21), the 1,000-yard (9:07.42) and 500-yard freestyles (4:25.81), as well as the 400-yard individual medley (3:54.49). In the 200-yard butterfly, perennial crowd and fellow athlete favorite Dennis Baker, 43, finished in 1:50.84 (1:50.71p) taking sixth place.
The 400-yard medley relay of KING's Ariana Kukors, Courtney Eronemo, Jendrick and Emilee Jennings smashed the meet record in the event by more than seven seconds, finishing in 3:42.75. Of the five female relays, the ladies from KING took home first place in four of the team swims (200 free relay, 800 free relay, 200 medley relay, 400 medley relay), breaking meet records in each.
The one defeat for KING came at the hands of Tacoma Swim Club’s 400-yard freestyle relay which touched just .10 ahead. TSC also claimed victory by way of Nathan Adrian, Clinton Stipek, Jesse Stipek and Ryan Verlatti in the men’s 800-yard freestyle relay, finishing in 6:45.27. The outing broke the meet mark of 6:48.21. In that final, the teams taking second (Tucson Ford) and third (KING) also were under the old record in 6:45.84 and 6:48.19, respectively.
KING Aquatics, not surprisingly, took the women’s and the overall team titles, led by the performances of Jendrick and the outstanding swims by 400-meter individual medley national champion Kukors. Kukors, younger sister of Auburn freshman Emily Kukors, took the 100-yard backstroke in 54.89, breaking Rebecca Sturdy’s record of 55.14 from 2003. She also claimed the 400 IM title in 4:12.73, well under the old meet record of 4:15.67, set by Lauren Thies in 1997. Kukors also won the 200 IM in 1:59.76, eclipsing her sister's mark of 2:01.09 set in 2002.
Other wins for KING came by way of high school state champion Eric Johnson in the 100-yard breaststroke (56.36) and by former USC Trojan and national champion in the 200-meter backstroke, Trent Staley. Staley claimed the sectional title in the 200-yard backstroke (1:45.96) while breaking the meet mark of 1:47.14 set in 2000 by Trevor Gray.