Versatile swimmer Kathleen Baker was born on Feb. 28, 1997 in Winston Salem, North Carolina to parents Norris and Kimberley. She swims club for SwimMAC Carolina where she holds team records in the 15-16 100 meter back (1:00.62), 200 meter back (2:10.23), 200 meter IM (2:13.35), 400 meter IM (4:44.63), 200 yard free (1:46.22), 100 yard back (52.52), 200 yard back (1:54.30), 200 yard breast (2:11.17), 100 yard fly (53.07), 200 yard IM (1:56.53), and 400 yard IM (4:11.38).
Age group records
Baker’s record-breaking ways extend beyond the confines of her club team. She holds the 11-12 National Age Group (NAG) records in the 100 yard back (55.68 – tied with Janet Hu) and the 100 yard IM (57.62). At the 2012 North Carolina Swimming 14&Under Championships Baker set her third NAG record in the 13-14 100 yard back (52.87). She is also part of several of SwimMAC’s 15-16 NAG record setting relay teams–the 200 yard free relay, 200 yard medley relay, 400 yard medley relay, and the 800 meter free relay.
Showcasing her versatility at the 2012 Speed Winter Junior National Championships, Baker won the 200 yard IM in a time of 1:56.53. That meet would prove to be very successful for Baker; she also won the 100 yard back (52.63), 200 yard back (1:54.31), and was part of SwimMAC’s winning 200 yard free relay, 200 yard medley relay, and 400 yard free relay.
2012 Olympic Trials
Although she did not make the United States’ Olympic Team, Baker still fared quite well at the 2012 US Olympic Trials. She was 13th in the 200 meter back (2:13.28, 2:12.81 prelims), 15th in the 100 meter back (1:01.63), and 23rd in the 200 meter IM (2:16.90).
Baker, not one to rest on her laurels, fiercely attacked 2013. She recorded lifetime bests in all but three events. She was 3rd in the 200 meter IM (2:13.35) at the 2013 US Open. For only being 16 years old, Baker swam impressively at the 2013 US World Championship Trials. She was 4th in the 50 meter back (28.60), 6th in the 100 meter back (1:00.62), and 6th in the 200 meter back (2:10.92).
The young North Carolinian’s 2013 performances earned her a spot on the United States’ 2013 FINA World Championships team. At the Championships in Dubai Baker won silver medals in the 100 meter back (1:01.18) and 200 meter back (2:10.68) as well as bronze medals as part of the United States’ mixed 400 meter medley relay and the women’s 400 medley relay.
Baker finished 2013 with a 3rd-place finish in the 200 yard IM (1:56.38) at the 2013 AT&T Winter Nationals. She expanded upon her international experience by joining the United States’ 2013 Duel in the Pool roster. At the showdown in Glasgow, Scotland Baker was 3rd in the 200 scm back (2:05.08) and 6th in the 100 scm back (58.62).
After an extremely successful high school career Baker was the third-ranked recruit in the nation according to SwimSwam. After considering schools such as Texas, Georgia and Tennessee she committed to the University of California, Berkeley in 2014.
2017 NCAA Championships
In the first event of the Championships, Baker led her Cal 800 Free Relay team to a second place finishing, leading off with a 1:42.66. Baker started her individual campaign by winning the 200IM, breaking the pool record and just missing the NCAA, US Open, Meet and American record by .04, with a time of 1:51.69. In the 200 Medley Relay, Baker swam the lead off backstroke leg splitting a 23.62 to help Cal claim the Gold. Baker added the 200 back to her win column finishing in 1:48.44, 0.6 seconds ahead of 2nd place swimmer Alexia Zevnik of NC State. Baker swam the second leg of Cal’s third place 400 Free Relay team, splitting 47.42. Baker struck gold again in the 100y Backstroke with the time of 49.84, just off her morning Meet and Pool Record swim of 49.80.
2018 Pac-12 Championships
Day 4 of the 2018 Women’s Pac-12 Championships in Federal Way, Washington saw reigning NCAA champion Kathleen Baker of Cal step up for one of her signature events: the 200 back. Baker turned in a new best time, taking down her own Pac-12 Meet Record by 6 hundredths as she hit the wall in 1:48.27. She finished over a second ahead of the field, as Stanford’s Janet Hu, who narrowly topped Baker in the 100 back, took 2nd tonight in 1:49.49.
2018 NCAA Championships
Baker helped the Bears take the second place as she competed in her usual line up. She got second in the 200 IM with a new best time of 1:51.25 and third in the 100 backstroke with a 50.77. On the last day, she won the 200 backstroke with a new American Record time of 1:47.30. She was also a part of four relays where Cal gained some valuable points after finishing second in the 200 and 400 medley relays and third in the 800 freestyle and 400 medley relays.
After setting a world record in the 100 backstroke and also winning gold in the 200 back and 200 IM at the U.S. Nationals, Baker announced that she would be forgoing her senior year at Cal to turn pro. In the announcement, Baker said that being able to better handle the effects of Crohn’s disease factored into her decision.
“I am excited to announce that I will become a professional athlete while finishing my degree at the University of California, Berkeley,” Baker said. “This decision will allow me to best manage my overall health and Crohn’s disease, as well as take advantage of opportunities outside the pool. College swimming has given me friends and memories that I will cherish forever. Teri and this team have helped me grow athletically, academically and personally, and while I’m looking forward to this next chapter, I will always be a Cal Bear!”
Signing with Speedo
Capping off a whirlwind two weeks, which included a new World Record of 58.00 in the 100 meter backstroke then announcing that she would forgo her final year of NCAA eligibility and turn pro, Kathleen signed her first suit partnership with Speedo.
National and international competition
Baker had a huge season in 2014, making it onto the Short Course Worlds and Pan Pacs rosters. At the Phillips 66 Nationals in 2014 Baker finished 2nd in the 200-meter back, effectively being named to the Pan Pacs roster where she went on to finish just outside the final, finishing ninth overall.
In the same season Baker made the Short Course World Championship Team, which were held in Doha. She competed individually in the backstroke events, and was also a member of the U.S. team’s freestyle relays. Baker helped the U.S. squad win a silver medal in the 200 free relay, and individually she finished 6th in the 100 backstroke and 11th in the 200 backstroke.
Her performances got her on the 2015 World Championships roster in the 100 backstroke.
2015 World Championships
Baker was set to swim the 100-meter back at the 2015 World Championships in Kazan alongside teammate, Missy Franklin. Baker swam a best time in the semi-finals of the event in order to advance the championship heat in 7th place. In the championship final of the event, Baker added just .3 to touch in 8th place of the event. Baker swam the preliminary backstroke leg of the 4×100-meter medley relay before Franklin took over in the championship final — the U.S. squad finished 4th overall.
2016 US Olympic Trials
In the 100m Backstroke Baker finished second to Olivia Smoliga with a time of 59.29, adding her to the Olympic Roster.
2016 Rio Olympics
Kathleen Baker finished second to the Iron Lady, Katinka Hosszu, to win the silver medal in the 100M Backstroke with a time of 58.75 just one one hundredth of a second of third places finishers (a dead tie), Kylie Masse of Canada, and Fu Yuanhui of China.
Baker was also the backstroke leg of the women’s 4×100 medley relay that won gold on the final night of the meet.
2017 US World Championship Trials
Baker swam a 2:06.38 to win the 200M Back and solidify her spot on the US team. She then finished second in the 50M back, and finished out the backstroke winning the 100M with a time of 58.57, setting a new US Open Record and LC National Meet Record.
2017 FINA World Championships
Day three, in the final of the 100m backstroke, Baker was just .01 off of her own personal best time to claim the silver behind Kylie Masse who broke the World Record (58.10). Baker swam a 58.58.
Day four of competition Baker took down Natalie Coughlin‘s 50 back American record during the 50m backstroke semifinals. Swimming in heat two, Baker popped a 27.48, much faster than her 27.94 from prelims. That is just .03 ahead of Coughlin’s old record, a 27.51 from the 2015 Arena Pro Swim Series – Santa Clara.
Day seven Baker won bronze in the 200m backstroke final. Baker swam a 2:06.48 to make the podium in her second individual medal of the meet.
Day eight in the final of the 4×100 medley relay, Team USA’s Baker, Lilly King, Kelsi Worrell, and Simone Manuel teamed up to set a World Record. Baker got the ball rolling on the backstroke split with a personal best 58.54 on the backstroke leg, marking the 5th fastest 100 back ever done by an American. King (1:04.48) kept it close as she battled once again down the stretch with Russia’s Yuliya Efimova (1:04.03), but the Russians took the lead through the halfway mark. On the fly leg, Worrell pulled the USA into the lead with her 56.30, making way for 100 free champ Manuel (52.23) to finish things off as they finished in 3:51.55. That took a half second off the former World Record, which stood as a 3:52.05 done by the USA in 2012.
TEAM USA 4×100 MEDLEY RELAY WORLD RECORD SPLITS
- 100 Back Split: Kathleen Baker– 58.54
- 100 Breast Split: Lilly King– 1:04.43
- 100 Fly Split: Kelsi Worrell– 56.30
- 100 Free Split: Simone Manuel– 52.23
2018 U.S. National Championships
After starting the meet off with a tie in the 200 back with Regan Smith (2:06.43), Baker won the 100 backstroke title in a world record time of 58.00, also setting a new American standard and U.S. Open mark. She shaved more than a second off her prelim time of 59.27. Baker made another note in the records book, winning gold in the 200 IM in a U.S. Open record time of 2:08.32, more than three and a half seconds off her prelim time.
2018 Pan Pacific Championships
Baker started things off in the 400 mixed medley relay, leading off team USA in 59.29 to a bronze medal. On day 2, she got even closer to her WR, racing in the individual 100 backstroke and touching for bronze in 58.83. After missing the A-final in the 200 IM and scratching out of the B-final on day 3, Kathleen had a big finish in the tank, racing her way to individual gold in the 200 back in a time of 2:06.14. She finished off her pan pacs performance with a silver in the women’s 4×100 medley relay, leading off in a time of 59.41.
2018 World Cup
After announcing that she would forego her senior season of NCAA eligibility, Baker traveled to Europe for the 2nd cluster of the World Cup series in Eindhoven and Budapest. In Eindhoven, Baker broke the American record in the 100 back by .01 (55.91), formerly held by Courtney Bartholomew from the 2015 Duel in the Pool. At the 2nd meet of the cluster in Budapest, Baker continued her AR streak and tied the record in the 100 IM (58.02) which was held by Team Elite teammate Katie Meili.
2018 Short Course World Championships
Baker finished the year with 4 more international medals. She earned a silver in the 200 backstroke (2:00.79), just behind American teammate Lisa Bratton (2:00.71), as well as individual bronze in the 200 IM (2:05.54). Baker swam prelims of both American medley relays, which went on to win gold in both finals, giving Baker 2 more golds to her haul.