Sports

Spring Championships hit finish line tonight

By CASEY OLSON

The Mirror

The bigger the meet, the better Jonathan Hiett swims.

The current senior at Todd Beamer High School proved he was among the elite breaststrokers in the nation Wednesday night when he finished up in fourth place at the 2006 United States Spring Championships inside the Weyerhaeuser King County Aquatic Center. Hiett’s time of 2:21.09 in the 200 breaststroke was just 3-tenths of a second off qualifying him for the 2008 US Olympic Trials. Louisiana’s Matthew Coenen, 22, won the event in 2:19.98.

The U.S. Spring Championships features 700 of the best men and women club team swimmers from around the country and will conclude tonight inside the Aquatic Center. Preliminary heats will kick off at 9:30 a.m. this morning and the finals will follow, starting at 5:30 p.m.

Hiett’s fourth-place finish at the U.S. Spring Championships comes a month after he snared a pair of Class 4A state titles in the 200 individual medley and 100 breaststroke at the Aquatic Center. The titles were the first individual state championships in the three-year history of Beamer.

The U.S. Spring Championships are the second huge national meet held at the King County Aquatic Center in the last month. The Federal Way pool hosted the Pac-10 Conference Men’s Swimming Championships March 2-4.

Things got off to a rocky start Tuesday when opening night of the Spring Championships was delayed about an hour before races were supposed to begin when fire alarms went off at the Aquatic Center. The swimmers warming up for the night’s action had to be evacuated from the pool.

A motor for the facility’s ventilation system overheated, causing smoke to fill parts of the building. The meet was delayed for an hour and 45 minutes while the smoke cleared.

“We had a fan belt that went haywire for the circulation system,” said Logan Harris, King County’s public affairs manager. “There was no fire, but they did have to evacuate. Everyone was great and understanding.”

The delay didn’t seem to hurt Katie Hoff. The 16-year-old from Towson, Md. has been the star of the meet. The North Baltimore Aquatic Club swimmer has snagged a pair of individual titles, including the 400-meter individual medley Thursday night. The reigning world champion got the crowd going when she surged ahead of American record pace after the first length of the breaststroke leg, but fell behind during the freestyle portion of the event. Hoff’s final time was just 34-hundredths of a second behind her U.S. Open mark.

“That was one of my top three times I’ve ever done, so at this point, I’m really happy with the way the race turned out,” Hoff said.

Auburn Mountainview junior Ariana Kukors of Federal Way’s King Aquatics Club finished second in the event.

Another Olympic star, Megan (Quann) Jendrick, also of King Aquatics, struck gold in the women’s 200 breast Wednesday. Jendrick took control from the beginning of the race and cruised to the win, holding off Caitlin Leverenz of El Dorado Aquatics through the finish.

Jendrick finished with a time of 2:29.06, while Leverenz was second in 2:30.94. Elizabeth Smith of Parkway Swim Club was third in 2:32.62.

“After resting for other meets this year and not swimming long course at all, it’s hard to come into a long course meet like this with any expectations,” Jendrick said. “I’m happy with my swim tonight, and after some long course training this summer, I’ll be ready to go faster at Summer Nationals.”

Decatur grad Erich Matulic swam the 30th best time during the preliminaries of the men’s 1,500-meter freestyle Tuesday. Matulic, who is currently swimming at the University of Florida, swam a 16:19.21. The time didn’t qualify Matulic for the finals.

Sports editor Casey Olson: 925-5565, sports@fedwaymirror.com

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