Mullen & Henzell 1-Mile Ocean Swim Recap

By Barry Punzal, PresidioSports.com

After a career of competing around the world, swimmer Mark Warkentin has become a homebody.

That doesn’t bode well for competitors who aim to win events like the Semana Nautica 1-mile ocean swim.

Warkentin, a U.S. Olympian in open-water swimming, cruised past the record-field of 144 swimmers on Saturday to win the race along East Beach in 16 minutes, 49.53 seconds.

Unlike the last two years, conditions were near perfect with water temperature around 63 degrees and a fairly smooth surface.

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“This is kind of my post-swimming career swimming career,” said Warkentin, who turned to open-water swimming after a long pool-swimming career and qualified for the 10-kilometer event at the 2008 Olympics in China. “I retired after the World Championship Trials, retired from professional open-water swimming, and now I’m just a local guy who likes to do local races.”

Saturday’s win was his third in a row in the mile. He beat twin brothers Mitchell and Matthew Johnson of the Canyons Aquatic Club of Santa Clarita, who staged a furious battle to the finish line. Their times were 16:57.73 and 16:57.74.

Women’s champion Nicole Antoniuk, also of the Canyons Aquatic Club, also won for the third straight year. Her time was 17:03.23, which was fifth best overall. Luane Rowe was second in 18:14.69 and Emma Osowski finished third in 18:21.35.

“I had a rough start but (the swim) was good,” said Antoniuk, a senior-to-be at Hart High School. “It felt better than years before.”

Antoniuk said she got kicked in the face at the start and didn’t find her rhythm until making the turn at the halfway buoy.

“Once I turned I got into the motion and started going. That’s when I caught up with (Canyon Aquatics teammate) Matt Howard.”

Howard came in just ahead of Antoniuk in 17:02.95, fourth overall.

Antoniuk specializes in the distance events for her high school team. She finished fourth in the 500 freestyle and seven in the 200 IM at the CIF Finals this season.

“Coming here is just like swim practice,” she said of doing the Semana Nautica mile. “It’s nonstop swimming.”

Warkentin, a San Marcos High alum, has been swimming nonstop for several years. Last year, he won both the 1- and 3-mile Semana Nautica events and did a 28.5-mile swim around New York’s Manhattan Island.

Last month, he did the 10k at the USA Open Water National Championships in Fort Lauderdale and finished in fourth place to miss qualifying for the World Championships by two places.

Now, he seems content with doing the local races. He said he decided the last minute to swim the mile.

“I always have the idea in my head; it’s Semana Nautica, you have to do it if you’re an athlete in Santa Barbara.”

As for doing Sunday’s 3-mile race, “We’ll see,” he said.