Volunteer Assistant Warkentin Beats Field For Spot at World Championships

Oct. 24, 2007

Note: This article originally ran in the Santa Barbara News-Press on Oct. 22, 2007

Santa Barbara's Mark Warkentin was so anxious before the 10K Open Water World Championships Trials on Sunday morning in Fort Myers, Fla., that he woke up at 2 a.m., four hours before the time he set on his alarm clock.

But by the time he went to sleep Sunday night, he had earned one of the two spots up for grabs with a first place finish.

"This was one of those days you mark on your calender like the birth of your child or your wedding," Warkentin said.

Warkentin, 27, made his day just as memorable, conserving energy while drafting behind the leaders until the final 2,000 meters, when he took over the race and pushed with everything he had.

"I was just hanging on for dear life," Warkentin said. "I kept thinking at any moment I was going to be challenged."

But Warkentin did hold on, finishing the grueling swim in 1:57:01.84, two seconds ahead of three-time 10K Open Water National Champion Chip Peterson.

Warkentin also outswam Pan American gold medalist Fran Crippen during the final lap, but not until he knew it was time to go for the lead.

"I had to stay patient," Warkentin said. "That was a big key. A lot of times I get so excited. There was a lot on the line."

The result kept his dream alive of swimming in the Olympics, which would become a reality if he swims to a top-10 finish in May at the World Championships in Seville, Spain.

So what did Warkentin do to celebrate this milestone?

He went to dinner with his wife and treated himself to something he had been craving during training: Chicago-style pizza.

"It was the tastiest pizza I've had in my life," he said, before adding that there was a grocery list's worth of food he was looking forward to eating while relaxing for a couple days.

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