Picotte’s National Masters Record Performances Promising

By Duncan Scott

ANNAPOLIS, MD, December 31. SWIMINFO has previously reported on the star turn by 2004 Olympian Katie Hoff in the 2004 North Baltimore Christmas Invitational at the Naval Academy, where the youngster smashed national age group records set in 1979 by multiple Olympic gold medalist, Tracy Caulkins.

Andy Lehner, head coach of Monocacy Aquatic Club, which also competed in the NBAC meet, now reports Katie wasn’t the only swimmer of an interesting age to surpass multiple national records held by a multiple Olympic gold medal-winning performer.

Whereas Katie’s age has been of interest since she broke onto the national/international scene due to her youth, Lehner tells us of some pretty interesting performances from a relative oldster who is returning to compete on a national class level and looking for more.

Mike Picotte, age 32, swimming unattached while training with Lehner’s Monocacy squad in Frederick, Maryland, surpassed two US Masters records for men 30-34 with a 44.53 second effort in the 100 yd freestyle and a 48.25 clocking in Coach Lehner’s old specialty, the 100 yd butterfly.

Indications are that Picotte has some pretty big goals ahead. He jumped through the hoops necessary for official reinstatement to compete in FINA events. Lehner reports that Picotte continues to make consistent improvement since his official reinstatement by FINA September 3, 2004. The record-breaking swims give him at least two tickets into not only the USA Swimming National Championships this summer but this spring’s World Championship Trials meet as well.

The Masters marks were by no means chopped liver. The were set by Jon Olsen, the former Alabama star who won multiple Olympic relay golds and continued to have an impact at the elite level as a coach with Gary Hall, Jr.’s Race Club. Even after setting these Masters records in 1999, Olsen was competitive enough to be a semifinalist in the 100 free at the 2000 US Olympic Trials, swimming 50.10 in the prelims, faster than 7th in the final and only 0.70 outside the mark necessary to make his third US Olympic team.

And talk about perspective. Picotte’s been at the top of the heap on Katie’s side of the age divide, as well as now having a chance to compete for a spot on a US National team at age 32.

He was the US national champion for Swim San Diego in the 200 yd freestyle in March, 1990, swimming 1:36.26 at the ripe old age of 17 or possibly a new 18. Either way, national champion men, especially in a 200 or shorter freestyle, are easily as rare as a 14-year-old female national champion.

Who knows? Maybe Picotte will be swimming’s version of The Natural. He has surfaced now and again in the interim but was far enough underground in swimming between these two peaks to have been a water polo letterman at UCLA in 1992, nearly a decade after it became a true men’s swimming desert with the Bruins’ shameful desertion of men’s swimming.

Lehner is excited at Mike’s prospects. “As Mike's coach I am looking forward to seeing him swim even faster in the upcoming months/years. I am proud of Mike and his commitment to the sport. These are remarkable swims from someone who is 32 years old.”