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.
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 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.