Pro Swimmer Ziegler Sets American Records

Posted: December 12, 2006 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By David Driver

Kate Ziegler
Kate Ziegler
Photo by Nicolas Tan

Kate Ziegler has always enjoyed swimming at the George Mason Aquatic and Fitness Center on the Fairfax Campus.

“Mason has an awesome pool. I always swim well here,” says Ziegler, a Mason freshman. “Technically, it is a very fast pool. There are some pools that bring you good luck.”

That is certainly the case for Ziegler, who set an American record with a time of 15:37.17 in the 1650 freestyle on Thursday, Dec. 7, in the Tom Dolan Invitational at Mason. The old record of 15:39.14 was set on March 17, 1990, by Californian Janet Evans, a star in the 1988 Olympic Games.

A fan of Evans when she was younger, Ziegler says of the new record, “It was a goal I set for myself a long time ago.”

Not to be outdone, Ziegler broke a second American record on Sunday, Dec. 10, with a time of 9:21.57 in the 1,000-yard freestyle on the last day of the Dolan Invitational. That shattered the mark of 9:24.80, which Ziegler established last year at Mason.

“Going into the race, I was really confident. My training has gone very well,” she says. The 1,000-freestyle was the sixth of seven events Ziegler competed in this past weekend.

Ziegler is the reigning world champion in the 800 and 1,500 freestyles, and is preparing for the 2007 World Championships in Melbourne, Australia, in March. Ziegler, who is from Great Falls, Va. and a graduate of Bishop O’Connell High School in Arlington, Va., enrolled this semester at Mason. But since she turned professional in April, she is not eligible to compete for the Patriots. However, Ziegler is a volunteer assistant coach with the Mason team, which is coached by Peter Ward, and attends practices three days a week.

Ziegler says she has competed “many, many times” at Mason. She started swimming at the age of 6, and became serious about the sport when she was 12. Ziegler competes for FISH, a club team in McLean, Va., coached by Ray Benecki.

Before turning pro and signing with Speedo, Ziegler considered attending college at a big-time program in Florida or Georgia in preparation for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China. But she wanted a complete college experience, and selected Mason.

“Academics is very important to me,” says Ziegler, who is interested in psychology as a field of study. “I wanted to be well rounded. Mason worked out really well.” And by staying close to home, she can continue to train with Benecki and FISH.

Ziegler has competed in the national championships several times, and has made several appearances in the world championships. Last April she competed in the world championships in Shanghai, China, where she won the 400-meter freestyle, finished second in the 800-meter freestyle and was part of the 4 x 200-freestyle relay team that came in third.

In 2004, Ziegler competed in the U.S. Olympic trials in Long Beach, Calif., but did not qualify for the Athens Olympics that year.

The Tom Dolan Invitational is named for the former University of Michigan standout from Arlington, who, like Evans, also competed for the United States in the Olympics.

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