IN ITS 250-PLUS-YEAR HISTORY, Baltimore’s Harbor has drawn shipbuilders, sailors and pirates. But water of an indoor sort attracts Olympic swimming team hopeful Katie Hoff, 18. She practices 10 times
per week at Mount Washington’s North Baltimore Aquatic Club, where six-time Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps used to train.

Her lane time there has already yielded results: She holds the world record in the 400 IM (individual medley) and U.S. records in the 200 IM and 400 free. She expects to be at the Olympics in Beijing this summer, making her second appearance at the games.

So, where does this aqua girl hang out when she’s not practicing flip turns or trying to reduce her race times? Besides couch surfing with her boyfriend (they love “O.C.” reruns) or rope swinging at Beaver Dam, Hoff spends her non-pool time at spots all around B-More and its environs.

» EXPRESS: Practicing as hard as you do, you must work up quite an appetite. Where do you go to refuel?
» HOFF: There’s this rotating sushi bar in Towson that’s amazing. It’s called Kyodai (1 W. Pennsylvania Ave.; 410-339-7500). It’s healthy fast food, because you sit down and get a plate right away. They have a great variety of fresh sushi.

» EXPRESS: Any other fave restaurants?
» HOFF: On the weekends, I like to go to Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. There’s a place there called the Rusty Scupper (402 Key Hwy., Baltimore; 410-727-3678). It’s a sit-down and dress-up type of place. It has great seafood and overlooks the water. Another one is called Vin (1 East Joppa Rd., Towson; 410-337-0797). It’s a cute little restaurant that is probably better if you’re on a date. The desserts are mini, so you can get two or three of them. You can get a banana split and three cute little scoops of ice cream with a tiny banana. It’s adorable.

» EXPRESS: That’s good for training — dessert without going overboard.
» HOFF: It’s perfect! It’s not a gigantic piece of cheesecake. » EXPRESS: Aren’t you taking hip-hop dance lessons?
» HOFF: Yeah, I go on Tuesdays to the Towson Dance Studio (31 Allegheny Ave., Towson; 410-828-6116).

» EXPRESS: What song are you moving to now?
» HOFF: It’s “Fuego” by Pitbull. It’s very upbeat. I could not dance hip-hop to slow songs!

» EXPRESS: Does hip-hop help your swimming?
» HOFF: My coach actually suggested it. He said, “You should do something fun that keeps your mind off training for a little bit.” It’s only an hour once a week, so it doesn’t get me tired. It’s a little thing I look forward to.

» EXPRESS: Have you gone to any local dance clubs?
» HOFF: I’ve gone to an 18-and-up dance club called Iguana Cantina (124 Market Place, Baltimore; 410-244-0200) once. At first, I was a little apprehensive. I went with a friend, but they play really fun music. People who are underage get free sodas.

» EXPRESS: Did you show off your moves?
» HOFF: No. The first time I went, I had just started to dance, so I was a little shy. I don’t think I could whip out my routine. I definitely feel like I’ve learned to move a little better, so maybe now I could incorporate a couple moves on the dance floor.

» EXPRESS: Where else do you enjoy going in your free time?
» HOFF: Beaver Dam (10820 Beaver Dam Road, Cockeysville; 410-785-2323). It has a line swing. You hold onto this thing — it’s almost like a trapeze — and you fly up in the air and let go. There’s also a wooden floating platform out in the middle of the lake. It’s a really fun place to go with friends and swim around, lay out in the sun. I was there quite a lot last summer.

» EXPRESS: Fellow Baltimorean Michael Phelps has a street named after him in Charm City. Is that something you’d hope for after a strong Olympic performance?
» HOFF: I’d probably have to do quite a bit for that to happen. I’ll just take care of my swimming, and whatever happens after that can fall into place. I’m sure it’s not something Michael planned before 2004.

» EXPRESS: But you wouldn’t have a problem with it if it were to happen …
» HOFF: [Laughs] I wouldn’t turn them down.

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Photo by Marge Ely/Express