In the week after a world record showing at the Phillips 66 National Championships, two-time Olympic medalist Kathleen Baker announced Thursday that she will be forgoing her final year of NCAA eligibility at Cal to become a professional swimmer.
An advocate for awareness and research on Crohn’s disease, Baker plans to remain at Cal to finish her degree requirements and better manage her health.
“This decision will allow me to best manage my overall health and Crohn’s disease, as well as take advantage of opportunities outside the pool,” Baker said in a CalBears article. “College swimming has given me friends and memories that I will cherish forever. Teri and this team have helped me grow athletically, academically and personally, and while I’m looking forward to this next chapter, I will always be a Cal Bear!”
Baker has received support from the Cal community, including from head coach Teri McKeever.
“Kathleen has been an important part of our Cal program these past three years,” McKeever said in the CalBears article. “I’d like to thank Kathleen for what she means to our program and wish her continued success in swimming and her career. She is a role model for those who have Crohn’s disease, inspiring others with her outlook and high levels of success.”
Finishing in 58 seconds, Baker set a world record in the 100 meter backstroke. She additionally tied for first in the 200 back and placed first in the 200 individual medley.
During her three years as a Cal Bear, Baker has been crucial to the team’s success, leading the Bears to three consecutive top-three national finishes.
Baker earned the CSCAA Women’s Swimmer-of-the-Year award in 2017 after sweeping in three events: 100 back, 200 back and 200 IM.
In addition to being named a CSCAA Scholar All-American, this past season, Baker finished her NCAA season with a victory in the 200 back, setting a new American record.
Baker’s college accomplishments are matched only by her international success and recognition.
In 2016 at the Rio Olympics, Baker earned a silver medal in the 100 meter backstroke and helped the 400 medley relay team to a gold medal.
At the FINA World Championships in 2017, Baker earned a silver in the 100 back, bronze in the 200 back and gold in the 400 medley relay.
Next, Baker will travel to Tokyo to represent the United States at the 2018 Pan Pacific Championships.