By Phillip Whitten
LONG BEACH, July 7. OFF her performances over the past eight months, 15 year-old North Baltimore teen sensation Katie Hoff looked to be the favorite in the women’s 400 IM. But there’s a reason why experience is so important in this sport.
Perhaps overly excited swimming in her first-ever event at the Olympic Trials, Hoff took her race out too fast. Turning in 29.08 at the 50 and 1:02.62 after the butterfly leg, the youngster could already see the writing on the wall, though the proverbial piano did not fall until later in the race. Hoff, however, managed to hang on and qualify sixth, barely ahead of the next two finishers. Still it was a ticket into tonight’s final, which probably will see her swim a much more controlled – and much smarter — race.
Kaitlin Sandeno, co-favorite with Hoff, cruised to the #1 spot with a 4:42.64, half a second ahead of Santa Barbara’s Adrienne Binder, 4:43.16.
Kristen Caverly was a solid third, followed by Beth Pendleton and 16 year-old Julia Smit.
Emily Mason and Maggie Bowen, the seventh and eighth qualifiers, scratched the final.
2000 Olympian Maddie Crippen failed to make the final, finishing 11th.
PREDICTION: Kaitlin Sandeno and a much wiser Katie Hoff take the top two spots.