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:
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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