Hoff Highlights Opening Night of Eric Namesnik Memorial Grand Prix

ANN ARBOR, Michigan, May 19. THE Eric Namesnik Memorial Grand Prix got off to a sizzling start Friday night at Canham Natatorium, on the campus of the University of Michigan. The individual responsible for the major fireworks, not surprisingly, was Katie Hoff.

The teenage sensation from the North Baltimore Aquatic Club delivered a sterling performance in the 200 individual medley, as she clocked an impressive time of 2:11.22 for a five-second triumph over Natalie Coughlin, the five-time Olympic medalist. The reigning world champ in the event, Hoff trailed Coughlin after the opening leg, but took over in impressive fashion to roll to a dominating decision.

Targeting this summer’s United States Nationals and the Pan Pacific Championships, Hoff is expected to make a push at the world record in the 200 I.M. in a few short months. The standard of 2:09.72 was set by China’s Wu Yanyan in 1997, but is a drug-tainted mark.

In addition to her performance in the 200 I.M., Hoff placed second in the 50 freestyle. Kara Lynn Joyce prevailed in the one-lap sprint, as she clocked a time of 25.73 to hold off Hoff (25.85). Coughlin touched the wall for third place with a swim of 26.12.

Joyce also helped the Athens Bulldogs to a win in the 400 freestyle relay as she teamed with Maritza Correia, Mary DeScenza and Jessica Cole for an effort of 3:49.61. Hoff’s leadoff of 56.10 was the best 100-meter mark of the day and guided North Baltimore to fourth place. As for the 400 freestyle, Kristem Groome took top honors as her swim of 4:15.20 held off the 4:15.55 of Hayley Peirsol.

On the men’s side, the men from Club Wolverine put on a show, led by Michael Phelps and Peter Vanderkaay. Phelps, who won eight medals at the Athens Olympics, won the 200 individual medley in 2:02.60, easily quicker than the 2:05.97 of Keith Beavers. Phelps also took second in the 400 free when his 3:53.61 outing was topped by Vanderkaay’s 3:51.64. Klete Keller gave Club Wolverine a sweep of the top-three slots with a mark of 3:54.53.

Making his return to competition after coming out of retirement, Erik Vendt advanced to a pair of championship finals. A two-time Olympic silver medalist in the 400 I.M., Vendt placed fifth in the 200 I.M. (2:08.25) and was fifth in the 400 free (3:56.85). Vendt’s goal is to be in position for a trip to Pan Pacs and next year’s World Champs in Melbourne.

In the 400 free relay, Club Wolverine used the foursome of Vanderkaay, Davis Tarwater, Keller and Phelps to win in a time of 3:28.71. Club Wolverine also took second place in 3:36.59 behind the unit of Bobby Savulich, Evan Ryser, Curtis Dauw and Alex Vanderkaay. Joe Bartoch of London Aquatics won the 50 free in 23.91