Warkentin hangs on in chilly 1-mile swim

Mark WarkentinIt’s been 11 months since Mark Warkentin plunged into the warm waters of the Shunyi Olympic Rowing-Canoeing Park on a rainy day in Beijing, where he took eighth place in the Olympic debut of 10k open water swimming.

Saturday morning wasn’t as comfortable, as a dense fog bank and 59-degree waters had him shivering for the Semana Nautica 1-mile ocean swim. Warkentin held off a stiff challenge from 17-year-old Conrad Antoniuk to win the race at East Beach in 17 minutes, 42 seconds

“The next generation of open water swimmers is nipping at my heels,” said Warkentin, who has not been training regularly since the Olympics. “I’ve never had to have a strategy in a race in Santa Barbara, so this was the first time. It was really fun.”

Warkentin also said that it was one of the coldest races he’s had in California.

Antoniuk, of Canyons Swim Club, was thrilled to finish just five seconds behind Warkentin.

“Keeing up with him was amazing. I was trying to draft off of him at the very end, but he just kind of took over first place at the halfway point and stayed ahead. Knowing that I was that close to him was really cool,” he said.

Antoniuk’s sister Nicole was the top female finisher, clocking in fifth overall with a mark of 20:28.

Warkentin and his wife, Diana, are expecting a son to be named Noah in just a matter of weeks. The soon-to-be dad, who spent this past year coaching at San Marcos High, said that he might not be the favorite next year.

“It’s starting to slip. I got so much yardage and training in before the Olympics that I’m still hanging on, but by next year I might still be in the water at this point,” he said with a smile.