Once Kyle Whitaker gets back in shape, the Michigan swimmer thinks big things are in order for this summer.
While Whitaker is aiming to be in top form by next month’s World University Games in Russia, the Chesterton product still delivered on Thursday during the 2013 Phillips 66 National Championships in Indianapolis.
Whitaker qualified for the finals of the 400 IM with a top-five time of 4:18.65 on Thursday morning. The Duneland Swim Club veteran then turned in a time of 4:19.56 in the evening finals.
“I’m pretty happy, especially with the prelims time,” Whitaker said. “It’s been a while since I’ve been under the 4:20 barrier. I’m only on about four or five days of rest right now, but this is a good sign of things to come.”
Whitaker finished last (eighth) in the finals, but he wasn’t concerned with the standings at the end of the race.
“I was still pretty happy about (the finals),” Whitaker said. “At the 300 meter mark I was a second-and-a-half ahead of where I was in the prelims. I was a little frustrated with my freestyle split, but I’m not too disappointed tonight.”
Whitaker will swim in the 200 IM on Saturday, the same event in which he’ll swim during the World University Games. The Indiana native has swam all over the world, but Whitaker is always eager to come back to the IUPUI Natatorium.
“I like to think (there is a home-pool advantage),” Whitaker said. “This is one of my favorite pools in the whole world. The experience of swimming here many, many times and just knowing what to expect. I’m comfortable with this pool."
Whitaker has also gotten a thrill this week from watching brother Aaron compete. The Chesterton senior finished 19th in the 100 butterfly prelims (54.15), while swimming in the same heat as Ryan Lochte.
“It’s been great having Aaron here,” Whitaker said. “He’s having a great time and this is good for him as he’s getting ready to light it up at Junior Nationals. To get the chance to swim with guys like Matt Grevers and Ryan Lochte, I mean, not a lot of people can say they’ve done that.”
Elsewhere in the meet, Kevin Steel broke the U.S. Open record he set in the preliminaries in the 50-meter breaststroke with a time of 27.26, and Rachel Bootsma won the 50 backstroke in 27.68 to set U.S. Open and American records.
Steel and Bootsma prevented Lochte and four-time gold medalist Missy Franklin from taking all four events they swam in the finals. Lochte and Franklin had already each qualified in three events for the world championships entering the day.
David Plummer won the 50 backstroke in 24.52.
All three events Steel, Bootsma and Plummer competed in are being contested at nationals for the first time and only the event winner is eligible for the world championships.