Warkentin to swim around Manhattan Friday

As an Olympian in marathon swimming, Santa Barbara’s Mark Warkentin has racked up a lot of miles.

On Friday, he will swim more miles than he ever has in one competition, and he has a chance to break a world record in the process. The San Marcos High grad and 2008 Beijing Olympian will join three other swimmers in a grueling 28.5-mile race around the island of Manhattan.

Mark Warkentin will swim the longest race of his career on Friday.

The current record for encircling The Big Apple is five hours, 42 minutes, set by Australian Shelly Taylor-Smith in 1995. This time, female swimmers Tobey-Anne Saracino, 35, and Rondi Davies, 40, will swim as well as the 30-year-old Warkentin and Bulgarian rival Petar Stoychev, 35.

“It was originally designed as a two-person race between myself and him, but the woman who currently holds the record thought it would be appropriate to have female swimmers do it as well,” said Warkentin.

The former USC distance swimmer has been neck-and-neck with Stoychev in the past. The two finished four seconds apart in the 10k race in Beijing, with Warkentin coming in eighth and Stoychev in sixth. Earlier that year Warkentin took the silver at the FINA World Championships in the 25k by edging Stoychev (fourth place) by six seconds in Spain.

“He’s by far the best swimmer in the world in races that last over five hours,” said Warkentin. “I’m concerned about winning. We both might break the record, so it’s winning that counts.”

Warkentin, who coaches at the Santa Barbara Aquatics Club, decided to come out of retirement in January. The New York race is just another step along the way in his preparation for the Olympic Trials in June of 2011.

“A few months ago I got a call about doing this race. The water has become a lot cleaner around Manhattan, and after the enthusiasm for the sport in the area has grown exponentially,” said Warkentin.

In order to time the race properly so that the swimmers have the benefit of swimming with the currents, the start is not until 12:30 p.m. PDT Friday. That means the last couple of hours will be in the dark, which Warkentin said can be intimidating. OIn the positive side, water temperatures should be in the mid-70s.

PresidioSports.com will have full results and comments from Warkentin posted as soon as possible after the race.