A few days ago, Kathleen Baker tweeted a picture of good-luck gifts from her family before swimming’s national championships in Irvine.
Earrings. Novelty socks. Moisturizing facemasks. And a card that said: “I believe in you 100%.”
Apparently the gifts worked as Baker set a world record in the 100-meter backstroke at the Woollett Aquatics Center on Saturday.
“I’m overjoyed with a world record and a first-place win and I just am sort of on cloud nine right now,” said the 21-year-old from North Carolina who swims for the University of California. “To come back and drop another half a second at 21 years old is just pretty great.”
Baker, who won a silver medal in the event at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in 2016, finished in 58.0 seconds. She beat the record established by Canada’s Kylie Masse in 2017 by .10 of a second.
After Baker touched the wall and saw the result, she repeatedly thrust her left arm in the air in celebration. Her time is the fastest this year by more than a half second.
In other races Saturday, Katie Ledecky won her third title of the meet, about 21/2 seconds off her world record in the 400 freestyle. Another title in the 1,500 freestyle is a virtual lock during the final day of the championships Sunday.
She earned her 16th national long-course title, tying Natalie Coughlin for seventh on the career list.
That’s good, but still well short of Michael Phelps’ record 61 national titles.
“That’s super impressive,” she said. “I’ll have to keep swimming for like 20 years to be able to match that.”
Olympic gold medalist Lilly King (100 breaststroke) won her signature event a day after capturing the 50 breaststroke, while Ryan Murphy, another Olympic gold medalist, took the title in the 100 backstroke with the world’s top time this year. Murphy also recorded wins in the 50 backstroke and 200 backstroke at nationals.