HS Confidential: Yetter's Young Swimmers Shine at NBAC
By Keith Mills
Paul Yetter loves talking about his North Baltimore Aquatic Club swim team. In fact, he'll talk about it from now until the Beijing Olympics in 2008.
He talks about how Olympian Katie Hoff is "training her brains out" and that 15-year-old Courtney Kalisz of Fallston, a national champion in the 200 butterfly, is an "awesome talent" whose potential is "scary." He talks about the fact that his first swimming coach was Patty Stephens, the wife of NBAC founder and CEO Murray Stephens, and that he first knew he wanted to coach when he was "swimming for Murray right here at North Baltimore."
His coaching creed has always been to have fun, saying, "If you can't have fun, what's the point?"
It's hard for many to call 8,000-15,000 meters of swimming a day fun, but that's the game plan at NBAC at the Meadowbrook Swim Club in Mount Washington. At Meadowbrook, there's always an eye on the next Olympic Games, always a chance for a new age-group record and always a new crop of young swimmers ready and willing to maintain the standard of excellence that has earned North Baltimore worldwide respect.
"We don't have a team full of Olympians here, that's really hard to do," Yetter said. "But we do have a team full of champions. If there's a swimmer who comes through our program we know they can go to college and swim, help their team and get an education."
Yetter was one of those swimmers. He grew up in Waugh Chapel in Anne Arundel County and spent his summers at the community pool.
"I remember standing at the snack bar at my pool at Waugh Chapel with my mom," Yetter said. "She said, 'You can do it, you can do it.' I said, 'I don't know if I want to join the swim team.' She said, 'You can if you want.' I finally gave in and said alright and I thought it was really cool."
Really cool turned into really committed. Yetter later joined the Bowie Aquatic Club where he swam for John Mason and Patty Stephens. Murray Stephens was the highly-successful swim coach at Loyola High School and the coach of what was becoming one of the most successful age-group and senior swim teams in the country, the North Baltimore Aquatic Club.
Stephens bought the club in 1968. Twelve years later, Theresa Andrews of Annapolis finished fifth in the 100 backstroke at the 1980 U.S. Olympic trials while teammate Polly Winde of Ellicott City finished fifth in the 200 breaststroke. Andrews would go on to win two gold medals in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. Stephens and his NBAC swim team had arrived.
"I think when I was swimming here at North Baltimore," Yetter said. "I was drawn to the idea of helping people. To help them get better at the sport of swimming. Murray always showed confidence in me. Even when I was a young swimmer here, we'd talk about technique and training. It was great.
"Murray taught me that there's always something a high-level athlete can do to ensure they will succeed at the highest level," Yetter said. "Little things. The thing I picked up from Murray is figuring out what that little thing is."
Yetter eventually swam for Stephens at Loyola and North Baltimore as a teammate of 1992 world record-holder and Olympic gold medalist Anita Nall. He swam for the University of Wisconsin and coached both the Badger Aquatic Club and Verona High swim teams. His teams at Verona won two state titles in 1998 and 2000. Yetter returned to Baltimore in 2000 and began coaching at the Bel Air Athletic Club. One year later, he joined Stephens' staff at NBAC and coached under Bob Bowman, Michael Phelps' coach.
Under Bowman's guidance, Phelps won six gold medals and two bronze medals in the 2004 Athens Olympics and is training for the 2008 Games in Beijing. He has become a superstar, the face of American swimming. Phelps now lives in Ann Arbor, Mich. where he swims for the Wolverine Swim Club and helps Bowman coach the University of Michigan swim team.
When Bowman followed Phelps to Michigan to coach the Wolverines, Yetter inherited his job as the lead and senior coach at North Baltimore. The club hasn't missed a beat.
"I knew it was going to be a challenge when I took over, but I couldn't find a reason why we weren't going to be successful and because I couldn't find one, I didn't have one," Yetter said.
It is now gearing up for a run at the Summer Nationals next week in Irvine, Calif.
"I think the way we're swimming, we have a shot at winning," Yetter said.
Yetter's confidence is backed up by NBAC's abundance of talent led by 17-year-old Hoff.
Hoff is the American record-holder in the 200 individual medley. At last spring's World Championships, she set the record with a time of 2:11:24 and won the 400 IM and the 800 freestyle. In the spring nationals she won the 200 and 400 IM, the 50, 100 and 400 freestyles and finished second to teammate Kalisz in the 200 butterfly.
"Katie is a champion, you can feel it," Yetter said. "In practice she's rolling, in meets she's rolling. A lot of people know about Katie but the thing I want them to know is she works for everything she gets. She's the first one here and last one to leave."
Hoff is not alone in NBAC's pool-full of nationally-ranked swimmers, most of whom grew up and went to high school in the Baltimore area. In addition to Hoff, look out for the swimmers on Yetter's scouting report:
Courtney Kalisz, 15: Kalisz is a junior at Fallston High School in Harford County. She won the spring nationals in the 200 butterfly and finished fourth in the 100 fly and 50 freestyle. "She's an awesome talent," Yetter said. "She has a really great skill of not slowing down, but speeding up in the end. She has unbelievable stroke technique. She's a natural and fun to watch."
Felicia Lee, 14: Lee is a freshman at Towson High School. She won the 100 butterfly as a 13-year-old at the spring nationals and finished second in the 400 freestyle. "She's very natural with her feet and her kick," Yetter said. "She can kick across a pool faster than most people can swim. She's very talented."
Michele King, 17: King is a graduate of Dallastown High School in York, Pa., is headed to the University of Tennessee. She was a member of NBAC's second-place team in the 400 freestyle relay in the nationals and finished sixth in the 100 freestyle.
Claire Hutchinson, 19: Hutchinson is a sophomore at Notre Dame, a graduate of McDonogh who lives in Towson. She won the 800 freestyle, 200 butterfly and the 400 IM at the recent NBAC Mid-Summer Classic meet at Meadowbrook.
Kristen Groome, 15: Home-schooled, Groome joined the NBAC this past spring and is an open-water national champion. She won the U.S. 5K championship at Fort Meyers, Fla. last month while her 13-year-old brother, Eegan, won six events at the NBAC Mid-Summer meet.
Shaun Weinberg, 17: Weinberg, a graduate of Dulaney High School, is headed to Michigan to swim for Bowman. "He's been with us since he was 13," Yetter said. "He made the national cut in the 400 IM and is a key member of our team."
Dan Madwed, 17: Madwed is the former Connecticut Swimmer of the Year at Westhill-Stamford High School. He joined NBAC last month and is headed to Towson. He's the third-ranked butterfly swimmer in the country.
The wall next to the indoor pool at Meadowbrooke is filled with pictures of NBAC Olympians.
"Even though Michael Phelps is not here every day now, he'll always be an NBAC swimmer and the people from Baltimore will always cheer for him," Yetter said. "The kids today look at the wall and see the pictures of Michael and Anita, all our Olympians and they see they can do that too. They can have the same success."
But with success comes expectations and with expectations comes pressure.
"I'm confident not only in my ability but my athletes' ability," Yetter said. "When Katie and I got here after Athens in '04, we had that swagger that said, 'Hey, we can do this. We've done this!' Let's do it again. I feel there's no reason for us not to be successful."
Issue 1.14: July 27, 2006