Hoff is right from start

The Baltimore Sun

COLUMBUS, OHIO -- When Katie Hoff finished the 400-meter individual medley last night, everyone assumed she just had set a U.S. Open record. It was announced over the public address system at the Ohio State Grand Prix, the crowd roared, and a representative from USA Swimming tried to congratulate her.

Hoff, though, knew better.

"It's not a record," she insisted. "Really, it's not."

Hoff was right. Her time of 4 minutes, 34.49 seconds wasn't quite as fast as the 4:34.25 that Kristy Coventry of Zimbabwe swam at the Missouri Grand Prix - U.S. Open records don't have to be set by Americans, just set in an American pool - but it was perfect example of how sharp Hoff is.

The North Baltimore Aquatic Club swimmer knows, down to the tenth of a second, the marks she has to hit to achieve her goals. And considering that she was trying a risky racing strategy on purpose last night, going out extremely fast, she was pretty pleased with how it worked out.

"I've been scared to take it out fast, ever since I had problems with it when I was 14 or 15," Hoff said. "It's just been a mental block I've had to cross, and tonight was my best 200 split, so I'm pleased. ... I know some of my competitors in that event take it out fast, and I'm not going to be in the race if I don't take chances."

Michael Phelps also won the 400-meter IM last night, swimming a respectable 4:13.73. It was his only event of the day, because Jon Urbanchek, one of his Club Wolverine coaches, decided to scratch him from the 400-meter freestyle after Phelps fell asleep on one of the diving platforms during the morning.

"I'm exhausted and I'm still swimming decent, so I think I'm getting what I want out of it," Phelps said.

kevin.vanvalkenburg @baltsun.com candy.thomson@baltsun

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