Kathleen Baker Verbally Commits to Cal Golden Bears

USA Swimming National Teamer Kathleen Baker has verbally committed to the Cal Golden Bears, she announced via Twitter.

Baker is our 3rd-ranked recruit in the class of 2015, and might be the most versatile recruit coming out of  high school since another Cal Golden Bear: Natalie Coughlin.

Leaving no room for hyperbole, Baker is versatile enough that she could legitimately score at NCAA’s as a freshman in every single event. The only events in which she hasn’t proven that in the pool with some level of definiteness are the 500 and 1650 freestyles, but given how long it’s been since she’s gone a best time, we’re confident of her abilities there too.

Best times in yards:

  • 50 free – 22.63
  • 100 free – 48.20
  • 200 free – 1:43.61
  • 100 back – 51.51
  • 200 back – 1:54.30
  • 100 breast – 59.37
  • 200 breast – 2:11.17
  • 100 fly – 52.68
  • 200 fly – 1:58.08
  • 200 IM – 1:54.50
  • 400 IM – 4:11.38

Her versatility makes a discussion of how she’ll fit into Cal’s program almost laughable. The decision on where she’ll focus her career for international purposes will be an internal one with head coach Teri McKeever, but at the NCAA level, she can fill any spot where the team needs her.

Cal is still looking to solidify their breaststroke spot; they seem pretty set in the butterflies with Noemie Thomas, fellow class of 2015 commit Katie McLaughlin, Farida Osman, and others; and she’ll have an overlap of a year with Liz Pelton and Rachel Bootsma for the backstrokes (though Franklin will be gone). She’ll definitely have a role on the Cal free relays as a freshman, more-than-likely, and the rest will have to shake out after Baker’s senior season.

The SwimMAC product also was considering Texas, Georgia, and Tennessee, though most around swimming who we spoke with suspected that she would end up at Cal all along.

Though she’s got the versatility described above, Baker is probably best-known as a backstroker – she’s a member of the USA Swimming National Team in the 100 and 200 meter backstrokes. She placed 4th in the 100 (1:00.90) and 2nd in the 200 (2:10.42) at U.S. Nationals this summer to earn her way onto the Pan Pacs team as well.

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eileenswims
7 years ago

Congrats to a very talented swimmer! Cal is lucky to get her, with Missy, Pelton, and Bootsma on their ways out, her backstroke as well as her versatility will greatly impact their relays. I think it will benefit all the girls as well as the sport that the top 4 100 backstrokers will all be training together at Cal going into 2016. Teri is a master of the team dynamic, and I think being on a team of like-minded individuals would be more beneficial to Baker than taking a gap year.

Sparkle
7 years ago

Not to diminish Kathleen’s accomplishments in the pool, but she has a ways to go before making the Olympic team. In the 100 back, Missy, Bootsma, Pelton, Romano and Denninghoff have all been under 1:00 while Kathleen hasn’t, and in the 200, her 2:10 is a ways off of what Missy, Beisel and Pelton are all capable of. Granted, Denninghoff has been injured (but is making a solid comeback), and Pelton, Bootsma and Romano were off this year, but they will all likely be in contention for spots when 2016 rolls around, and have all been significantly faster than Baker in the past two years. She should go to Cal now and enjoy her time there and train with best… Read more »

Danjohnrob
Reply to  Sparkle
7 years ago

I would argue that Katie McLaughlin should consider deferring admission also, but this article was about Kathleen Baker, so I didn’t think it was appropriate because it was off topic.

I agree Kathleen hasn’t demonstrated 100 back times as fast as many have in their CAREERS, but that serves to illustrate my point. Bootsma, for example, may or may not ever be able to swim her best 100 back time again. I’m not even going to get into why, that’s probably complex. And I don’t blame Cal, because Pelton did great in 2013 there. Baker is improving NOW, where she is, working with who she’s working, so she should consider if making the 2016 Olympics is a big enough… Read more »

pol
Reply to  Sparkle
7 years ago

Meh. Pelton is not a threat at 100/200 back. She’s good in college swimming but when she competes in International competition she disappears. Like Tom Shields, she’s completely unreliable. All the backstrokers from Cal not only this year but in previous years = dropping miserably.

Baker needs to focus on her development. Teri is an overrated coach.

Sparkle
Reply to  pol
7 years ago

How is 4th in the 100 back and 5th in the 200 back at Worlds last year disappearing in international competition? Pelton was 59.2/206.2 in 2013, which is a lot faster than Baker’s 1:00/2:10. And Shields has been to one major international meet I would hardly call him unreliable.

And call Teri an overrated coach all you want but how many Olympic and World’s golds did she coach Natalie and Dana to?

loveSwimmin
Reply to  Sparkle
7 years ago

Sparkle: Don’t waste your breath on POL – clearly he/she doesn’t know what he/she is talking about and is clearly not a CAL or USA swim fan. POL: Go plug up other sports comment sections please

pol
Reply to  Sparkle
7 years ago

4th and 5th for Pelton congrats to her! Yipeee! No International medal. And Tom Shields who?

jman
7 years ago

YAWN! Cal, Stanford, Georgia again getting most of the top 10-15. I’m really bored with the women’s side of NCAA recruiting. Makes for little team competition at the NCAA level.

Johnny
7 years ago

Sitting out a year would be the logical choice here for many reasons.
1) training yards and focusing on NCAA’s in late March vs training LC w Marsh and his pro group at swim Mac? No brainer.
2) not having the added pressure of academic constraints while training would likely enhance her training/recovery/stress
3) why not stick with what has worked thus far w regards to her training? Baker has been getting faster every year under Marsh. While no guarantees going forward, it’s a far greater risk to enter a new program that-let’s be honest-had a very bad summer w some of USA’s best.
4) cal and scholarship would still be waiting for Baker after trials… Read more »

Klorn8d
Reply to  Johnny
7 years ago

Yes it is logically better to stay home but guess what, she is a teenager. They like being with their friends and going to parties and all that. She wants other parts of life too

Bill c
Reply to  Klorn8d
7 years ago

And guess what else, she will not be giving that up! The suggestion is to defer a year. She can still go to parties and and do whatever after trials. College isn’t going away, and she isn’t giving up her eligibility if she defers a year.

ohioswimmer
Reply to  Johnny
7 years ago

Many of our Olympians have come out of college teams and have managed just fine with all of the pitfalls you have listed.(2012- Beisel, Schmitt,Leverenz just to name a few), We have some pretty prominent ladies who didn’t swim college who have met with tough times (Hoff, Knutson). I’m not sure what is different about Miss Baker that makes you think she is at risk of not doing the same thing that many others have done. She wouldn’t be doing it if she didn’t think Cal was the best place for her to be, and I’m sure a lot of thought and discussion went into the decision. There are so many great college coaches to choose from, and she picked… Read more »

Lance
Reply to  ohioswimmer
7 years ago

Actually, not sure how many from college programs make the US teams vs post grad and HS/club aged swimmers (would like to see a breakdown of this from 2012). “Perpetual state of adolescence”? By deferring one year? Correct me if I’m wrong but Baker would be 19 going in as a freshman if she sat out a year as she is 17 now. The pros of deferring outweigh the cons in her situation given her current club, coach, and time improvements (and given Cal’s poor performances this summer). Too big of a risk to leave IMO.

ohioswimmer
Reply to  Lance
7 years ago

The perpetual adolescence part is mostly just responding to the part of the post above talking about family support, home cooked meals and enough rest. She’ll be 18, not 12. The no brainer comment is what bothered me.

beachmouse
Reply to  ohioswimmer
7 years ago

I also doubt that Kate Ziegler would have gone pro if she could go back and be fifteen again.

SwimFan
7 years ago

Sitting out of life a year to train with a club team is detrimental to the development of an 18 year old. She would not be happy and that would impact her performance. I am sure Cal will put in the long course work in 2015-2016 to prepare her. She knows better than the comments as to her goals and how to achieve them

Danjohnrob
Reply to  SwimFan
7 years ago

While I agree that Kathleen knows her personal goals and how best to achieve them, as well as that Cal swimmers receive excellent training, I don’t think expressing a point of view on this website is out of line, nor do I think, if comments are written in a respectful manner, that they should be considered insulting or injurious to her. Indeed, your assertion that sitting out a year to pursue the 2016 Olympic Team would be, “…detrimental to the development of an 18 year old”, suggests more authority in knowing what is best for Miss Baker than the suggestion that she consider other options!

Taking the “road less travelled” is not necessarily the wrong decision. Everybody’s opinions are valid… Read more »

coach
Reply to  SwimFan
7 years ago

Many keep forgetting that going to college is not just about a freshman joining a swim team. Not only do they have to adapt to being independent, new coursework, and a new training program, but they also have to deal with being home sick and even choosing their meals wisely. That is a LOT of change 9-10 months before the Olympic Trials.

It is absolutely a gamble to switch training program the year before the Olympics. Those college coaches get one experimental shot at a taper (and a SCY taper is different from an LCM taper) before having to run a taper for these swimmers at Trials.

Deferring for a year does not mean that they won’t get the college… Read more »

tomr
7 years ago

Swimming only lasts so long. A degree lasts a life time.

Danjohnrob
Reply to  tomr
7 years ago

Absolutely 100% true! No question about it! But….
1. Swimming careers don’t last forever either.
2. Olympic Swim Teams are only chosen every 4 years and it is VERY tough to be ranked #1 or #2 in ANY event in the US, never mind to get 1st or 2nd place at Olympic Trials.
3. Acceptance to a college can be deferred, sometimes without loss of scholarship.
4. Pro swimmers can study at universities too, they just can’t represent them in the NCAA.
5. One can receive a college degree at any age. You can also start and finish one at any age.

None of this is to say Miss Baker should/must do anything, it’s just… Read more »

bobo gigi
7 years ago

And while I’m talking about Missy, do we know what are her plans after her sophomore year at Cal to prepare the olympic games? Will she stay there to train with the pro group or will she be back in Colorado with Todd Schmitz?

Danjohnrob
Reply to  bobo gigi
7 years ago

Bobo, I don’t KNOW, of course, but I highly suspect she will stay at Cal, because she will probably want to keep taking classes (at least part-time) toward her degree. Plus, Teri will likely be one of the Olympic coaches. She also has peers at Cal, while in Colorado she’d be swimming with high school athletes.

Very few people seem to care or make note of the fact that Missy trained at altitude in Colorado, which has a significant effect on (some) athletes! I wouldn’t be surprised if what people are calling lack of progress at Cal is simply a combo of: 1. Not training backstroke nearly as much her 1st year there; and 2. Not training at altitude… Read more »

floppy
Reply to  Danjohnrob
7 years ago

I imagine it’s an adjustment training mostly SCY, too. Missy is a much better LCM swimmer, and may be over-focusing on the starts and turns (which she only needs to be passable at in LC) instead of crushing 40 meters of straight swimming.

pol
Reply to  Danjohnrob
7 years ago

Missy can still get her college education for crying out loud without competing for Cal. Just look how her time drastically dropped this year!!! It’s a concern for USA swimming. Teri should realize that 500m free is not going to help Franklin’s development!!!! It’s absolutely ridiculous!!

Missy should go back to Colorado and Todd, at least with him the focus will be on her, and not some handful of swimmers who really have no chance in winning a medal at the International competition.

Once again who cares about college swimming. It will forever be a footnote for any swimmer’s career.

SWIMNERD
Reply to  pol
7 years ago

Respect for speaking out what’s on many folk’s minds and not being intimidated by the rabid bears lovin’ peanut gallery here.

So heartbreaking to witness Missy’s sorry decline under McKeever’s tutelage. 500 FREE little pool = ZERO gold medals in the real pool. We lost a great one there 🙁

But it’s not too late for the future stars of USA Swimming like McLaughlin & Baker…

Follow in the footsteps of Ledecky, Manuel & Eastin, and you’ll go far!

coach
Reply to  SWIMNERD
7 years ago

SwimNerd, why do you continue to make these comments toward Cal and turn blindly to how poorly the Stanford girls swam at Nationals?

bobo gigi
7 years ago

Happy for her. Happy for Cal.
But it’s not good for the competition.
It looks like it’s Stanford vs Cal for the next 10 years. No?
Miss Baker is a jewel in yards. She’s so versatile. It’s amazing!

Just a little concern about this incredibly good 2015 class on the girls’ side.
I join some others above and you can vote down me if you want. I like that! :mrgreen:
Correct me if I’m wrong but it seems very likely, based on what she said in interview, that Katie Ledecky will not go to college before Rio. It would be smart and cautious before the biggest meet… Read more »

bobo gigi
Reply to  bobo gigi
7 years ago

I should specify that I love college swimming, I love the idea of dual meets and I love watching the NCAA championships. It’s fun and the team aspect is great. But it’s not the question here. My question is only about the long course development while swimming in college. That’s all.

DanishSwimFan
Reply to  bobo gigi
7 years ago

It’s an interesting question Bobo, and I’ll leave it to others far better informed than me to comment on college swimming. But to look at it from another angle, at least being able to combine swimming with education can be done, which gives the US a great talent pool to choose from. In many countries (this is a big problem in Denmark for instance), promising swimmers pretty much have to choose between swimming and education, and if at the age of 18 or so you’re not already world class or on the fringes, this can lead to many giving up swimming because there is too much risk in abandoning education for a very uncertain future.

Zanna
Reply to  bobo gigi
7 years ago

If swimming doesn’t work out, they will have something to fall back on to earn a living and with an education, they will have a chance to do should they decide to go that route. If they commit their lives solely to swimming, and in the middle of it all something prevents them from swimming long term, i.e. injuries,they will be left with no other options in their lives. Not everybody is Michael Phelps who was able to reap the benefits of swimming. Knutson and Hoff is currently in school even though they turned pro at an early stage. (Not sure if they have graduated)

With Ledecky, it is easier for her to decide whether or not she should defer… Read more »

duckduckgoose
Reply to  Zanna
7 years ago

It’s largely cultural, but frankly the money isn’t there yet for American pro swimmers. Phelps, Natalie, and Lochte are the only ones making major money. Natalie lives in a very nice East Bay suburb (Lafayette) now, but she lived in a condo in Emeryville (literally and economically between Berkeley and Oakland) when she first went pro. Adrian, Ervin, Leverenz, and Shields are living more like struggling grad students now than highly paid pro athletes. Prep swimmers at NABC and SwimMAC see how most pro swimmers live economically and almost all opt for college instead.

Stanford’s tuition is over $60K/year and more than 90% of applicants are denied, Cal’s out of state tuition is above $50K/year and nearly 80% of applicants… Read more »

Klorn8d
Reply to  bobo gigi
7 years ago

It’s kind of a cultural thing, everyone wants to have a college experience because their peers are doing it. Also college is a really great time in your life so no one wants to miss it.

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder/co-owner of SwimSwam.com. He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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