Ultra Swim Swimmer of the Month: Kathleen Baker, Team Elite

Ultra Swim Swimmer of the Month is a recurring SwimSwam feature shedding light on a U.S.-based swimmer who has proven themselves over the past month. As with any item of recognition, Swimmer of the Month is a subjective exercise meant to highlight one athlete whose work holds noteworthy context – perhaps a swimmer who was visibly outperforming other swimmers over the month, or one whose accomplishments slipped through the cracks among other high-profile swims. If your favorite athlete wasn’t selected, feel free to respectfully recognize them in our comment section.

Coming off a stellar NCAA season in yards, Kathleen Baker took a two-month competition break heading into long course season. Without a swim registered in the USA Swimming database between March 17 and May 26, Baker was silent as other good young American backstrokers rose: Olivia Smoliga, Regan Smith and Isabelle Stadden in particular.

Baker returned with four swims at the Speedo Grand Challenge that were good, but not headline-grabbing: 2:10.3 in the 200 back, 1:00.2 in the 100 back.

But the month of June saw Baker back and better than ever.

The rising senior for the Cal Golden Bears, now training and competing with Team Elite in San Diego, blasted 10 stellar swims between June 13 and June 16, swimming the final two stops of the Mare Nostrum series in Barcelona and Monaco.

Her best times were world-shakers. 58.77 in the 100 back in Barcelona currently sits 3rd in the world ranks, just two tenths behind world record-holder and 2017 World champ Kylie Masse of Canada:

2017-2018 LCM WOMEN 100 BACK

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At that same meet, she was a lifetime-best 2:11.58 in the 200 IM and 28.94 in the 50 back.

Two days later, Baker was in Monaco, going 2:07.02 in the 200 back to jump to #5 worldwide and #1 among Americans. In the same meet, Baker was 59.33 in the 100 back and 28.65 in the 50.

Over the course of the two meets, Baker won both 100 backstrokes, beating two-time European champ Mie Nielsen and 2016 Olympic champ Katinka Hosszu. Her 200 back in Monaco won by more than three seconds, and her 200 IM in Monaco took bronze behind world record-holder Hosszu and ahead of Olympic silver medalist Siobhan-Marie O’Connor.

With the all-important U.S. National Championships fast approaching, Baker now leads national ranks in both backstrokes by solid margins and sits 3rd in the 200 IM. Not a bad place to be in the month of June.


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Go Kathleen! All of her events are tightly contested and will be super close but I think she can make all Backstrokes. I hope she swims iM to push for top 3 with Margalis, Cox, Eastin, Walsh.


I agree, she’s a 1:51 yards IM’er and I think she’s better at long course. I would really love to see her swim the 2IM at Pan Pacs, I wouldn’t be surprised if she went 2:09 or faster.


I could see her challenging the WR at some point in her career since she’s solid at all 4 strokes. She just needs to be able to hold it together the last 50.


That’s a big jump for me to make. That record is insane. Baker is good, and will probably get the AR in the 100 back at some point soon (and possibly a WR at some point in her career), but I would say Hosszu’s IM records are up there with Ledecky’s freestyle records. I don’t think anyone is touching those for a while.

samuel huntington

I really doubt that, the record is real fast and Baker is not exactly close


I’m sure she also hasn’t swam it tapered in a while..


What about giving Coach Marsh more credit? The man is a virtuoso of coaching and psychology. He can take a hydrophobic swimmer and turn him or her into a hydrophilic maniacal swimming machine. Coach Marsh never gets enough credit, fame, newsprint or money for the sacrifices he makes on a stinking pool deck. He is All. (In my humble opinion.)

Benedict Arnold Schwarzenegger

Yes. David Marsh should have been named Swimmer of the Month.


Now that’s about what I am talking! FINALLY another person who thinks from a sagacious viewpoint. Coach Marsh should be Coach, Swimmer, Official, Parent and Pool Cleaner of the Month!


Some call him Marshmallow because he rides high in the water.


Others call him Marshmellow or Mushmouth


Not arguing DM’s qualifications, but from a materials and fluid dynamics standpoint, it is better if the surface of the swimmer remains hydrophobic. Same way that water beads up and rolls off of a new tech suit, while an old suit will just absorb it all immediately and get heavier, more likely to stretch, develop a thicker fluid boundary that increases drag, etc.

More within the scope of your point, there is a separate category for Coach of the Month, and Team Elite got just as much of a shoutout within the article as Cal, so I feel that everything is more or less as it should be in this article.


Is ya sayin the Coach up at Cal College ought ta be mentioned too??? Like Coach Marsh ought ta be mentioned more AND paid more money?? Sorry don’t know who coaches the girls up at Cal College.

The Grand inquisitor

Interesting situation: can you recall another situation when an active DI NCAA champion swimmer trains with the coach of a different college program during the summer?


Isn’t the Harvard kid training at Texas now? Not that strange


Texas and Coach Reese are training with Dean Farris.


really nice of Dean to train them

About Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson swam for nearly twenty years. Then, Jared Anderson stopped swimming and started writing about swimming. He's not sick of swimming yet. Swimming might be sick of him, though. Jared was a YMCA and high school swimmer in northern Minnesota, and spent his college years swimming breaststroke and occasionally pretending …

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