Retriever swimmers hope experience pays off at U.S. championships Team hopes to erase last year's shutout


Five Howard County swimmers who are members of the UMBC Retriever Aquatic Club returned from the U.S. Senior Swim Championships last summer in Florida with shattered pride and no medals.

Their coach, Sid Burkot, wants and expects better results for this year's championships, which start tomorrow and run through Friday in Mission Viejo, Calif., about 30 miles south of Los Angeles.

"They are more seasoned and experienced swimmers than last year," Burkot said. "They have been exposed to a few more things -- more pressure and top caliber meets. They should be a little more mentally prepared. Physically, they feel they are ready to go. They were a little jittery last year."

Cheryl White (Mount Hebron), Megan Malchak (UMBC), Ingrid Kilpe (Centennial), Elysia Moreland (Howard) and Dan van Hemert (Glenelg) have been preparing for the meet since April.

Since the spring, the five have practiced six days a week for 2 1/2 hours each day. Practice begins at 6 a.m.

"We reset our goals and look forward," Burkot said. "We nevelook back; that has nothing to do with this year. If the kids had been successful last summer that doesn't mean they could go out to L.A and do well again.

"We want to swim a lot of lifetime bests and be very competitiveThey want to score in the top 16 in their events. Last year, we had no top-16 finishes. That's why its important, we didn't do it last year."

The championships are an open meet without age restrictions. In competition will be 1,200 swimmers representing about 150 clubs.

"Its for the best swimmers in the nation," Burkot said.

Van Hemert and Moreland performed at two highly competitive events earlier this summer -- the New York State long-course championships and a dual meet between the Canadian and United States junior teams, preping the duo for one of the biggest swimming weeks of their young careers.

"If they [Van Hemert and Moreland] swim well it will be the mosrewarding because they have worked really hard to get here," Burkot said. "Experiences like those two have will make them more comfortable at senior nationals."

Van Hemert, 18, who is headed to Northwestern University on a full athletic scholarship in the fall, qualified in three events, including the 100 butterfly, the 400 freestyle and the 200 butterfly.

"Van Hemert has the ability to be an NCAA finalist next year," Burkot said.

Moreland, 16, will swim the 200 fly and the 400 individual medley. All senior national distances are measured in meters.

White, like Van Hemert, qualified for three events: the 100 backstroke, the 200 free and the 200 backstroke. The 18-year-old will be attending the University of Tennessee at Knoxville on a full athletic scholarship this month.

would like to do my lifetime best times," White said. "I had chicken pox last summer, and I did lousy. It took me a while to recover because I was so sick."

Kilpe, 17, will compete for some medals in the 100 and 200 back.

"Good performances are important to her [Kilpe] future," Burkot said. "Going into her senior year of high school, they [colleges] want to see what she can do. She will be highly recruited this coming year. She has gotten letters from major Division I swimming powers."

Megan Malchak, a 20-year-old junior at UMBC with a 4.0 grade point average in biology, is part of the 400 medley relay team. The others will be chosen off their performances at the meet. Malchak holds two UMBC school records in the 100 and 200 breaststroke.

Another team member, Candie Johnson, 17, of Westminster, qualified for the 50 free and the 100 fly. Johnson, who competed at the Olympic Trials in March, will also team with Moreland, White and Kilpe to swim the 400 and 800 freestyle relays.

"This is the biggest meet for us every year. We feel we are ready to score," White said. "We want to show everybody we can swim as good as they can and even better."

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