CLOVIS,Calif.- It was a sizzler, the temperature that is. More than 1500 swimmers returned for the third visit to Clovis for the U.S. National Championships. The large number was perhaps influenced by the opportunity to earn a berth on one of the four teams that will represent the United States in international competition, namely the 1999 Pan Pacific Championships, 1999 Pan American Games, 1999 World University Games (FISU), and 1999 Short Course World Championships. Adding to the huge entry was the competing in three finals, A, B, and C. There was just about something for everyone.
There were high hopes that the competitions would equal the six world-record tally of the 1983 Championship or the two world records at the 1987 Championships. The competition pool at the Clovis Olympic Swim Complex is fast. But the heat during the five day meet ranged from 38°C (101°F) to a high of 42°C (107°F) on August 14. The huge entry and the heat had to affect the competitors' performances. The rest area was like an outdoor sauna.
Sixteen-year-old Diana Munz, Lake Erie Silver Dolphins, upset Brooke Bennett, 18, 1996 Olympic gold medallist and 1998 World champion in the 800 freestyle. Munz trailed Bennett for 400 but broke away at 500 and won in 8:31.74. Bennett, Blue Wave Swimming, was second in 8:35.81 and Melissa Deary,15, Bolles School, was third in 8:39.21.
"This is amazing," Munz said. "This is the first time we were both really ready and I'm excited to win. Brooke is the world and Olympic champion. I remember when she beat my idol, Janet Evans. Brooke is the number one swimmer right now but I'm coming up." Bennett obviously had not been training hard for this meet as she was well off her World Championship time of 8:28.71.
Chris Thompson, 18, Club Wolverine, was the only swimmer to break eight minutes in the men's 800 freestyle. Thompson, winner of the 400 and 1500 free in the spring nationals, clocked 7:58.26, a time that is the second fastest in the world this year. Nat Lewis, 20, Lake Erie Silver Club, was second in 8:01.42, bettering his best time of 8:17.77 by more than 13 seconds. Austin Ramirez, 20, Elmbrook Swim, was third in 8:04.17. Tom Dolan, 22, Club Wolverine, finished 15th in 8:15.5 after an asthma attack. Dolan led at the halfway point. Perhaps the haze and the high temperature triggered the asthma attack. Twenty one swimmers failed to make the LC qualifying time of 8:22.69. Thompson trailed Dolan for 300 but then Dolan suffered the asthma attack.
"I knew Tom would push the pace, so it was a good feeling to be able to stay up with someone of that calibre," Thompson said.
Five-time Olympic gold medallist Jenny Thompson, 25, Stanford Swimming, won the 100 free in 55.53, not as fast as her 54.95 1998 World Championship time last January. Thompson, who competed at the Goodwill Games said, "I extended my taper for the Goodwill Games. I will rest after this championships, and go back to train with Stanford's Richard Quick." After the race Thompson said, "I'm about to puke. It's just the lactic acid build up, that's an easy one to diagnose. After the 2000 Olympic Games, I plan to enter medical school."
Ashley Tappin, 23, Hillenbrand, after retiring for one year and coming back this year to win four titles at the 1998 Spring Nationals, placed second in 56.08. Liesl Kolbisen, 21, Hillenbrand, was third in 56.25.
In the men's 100 freestyle, Jason Lezak, 22, Irvine Nova, was the sole competitor to break 50 seconds in the final as he was clocked in 49.93. Trailing were Neil Walker, 22, Texas Aquatics, 50.06, and J. J. Marus, 22, Little Rock Dolfins, 50.30.
Kristy Kowal, 19, Athens Bulldog, 1998 World Champion in 100 breaststroke, won the 200 breaststroke, clocking 2:26.27, the second-fastest time in 1998. Runners-up were Jenna Street, 16, Bolles Sharks, 2:26.65 and Annemieke McReynolds, 20, Scenic City, 2:29.07. Prior to the race, Kowal said, "I am going back to Georgia and work on my swimming, after a week or two break. I'll point toward the 2000 Olympic Games." Amanda Beard, 16, Irvine Nova, 1996 Olympic silver medal winner in 100 breaststroke, placed sixth. Anita Nall, 20, North Baltimore, former world record holder in this event who won three medals in the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games, had left the sport in 1996 after failing to make the 1996 Olympic Team. Suffering from an upset stomach and shaky from dehydration caused by the high temperatures, Nall returned after four months of training for these championships and swam in the B Final.
Tom Wilkens, 22, Santa Clara, won the 200 breaststroke, 2:12.39, the fastest time in the world this year. This spring, Wilkens won the NCAA gold in 200 breast and the 200 and 400 IMs. Teammate Kurt Grote, 25, clocked 2:12.66 for the silver, and Steven West, 26, Irvine Nova,2:15.30 for the bronze. Dr. Ron Karnaugh, 32, the oldest competitor in the meet, placed fifth in 2:16.13. In the 1998 Goodwill Games, Karnaugh won the silver medal in the 200 IM.
Natalie Coughlin, 15, Terrapins, won the 200 backstroke in 2:12.03, fourth fastest in the world. Trailing were Lia Oberstar, 21, Ft. Wayne Aquatic, 2:13.09 and Lea Loveless Maurer, 27, Badger Swim Club, 2:13.14. Maurer had retired twice, once after graduating from Stanford in 1994 and again after failing to make the 1996 Olympic team. In January Maurer won the 1998 World Championships in the 100 backstroke and broke her five-year old American record in the prelims of the '98 World Championships. Monday, after the national championships, she returns to her job as English teacher at Lake Forest High School, Illinois. This year Maurer will have to decide on an Olympic run (2000).
"I don't know if it's feasible. I think life will dictate to me whether it's humanly possible....teaching and training and whether I enjoy it. If I start compromising my performance in any of the three areas, I'll walk away. But for now it's working."
Expectations ran high in the men's 200 backstroke for Lenny Krayzelburg to break the world mark. Krayzelburg, 20, gold medallist in the 1998 World Championships in the 100 and 200 backstroke said before the race, "I tapered 12 days for the Goodwill Games. I have been to the pool, it's a good pool. I plan to swim fast. If the world record comes, okay. After this meet I'll take a month off, the last time before the 2000 Olympic Games. I train with Mark Schubert at the University of Southern California, and will graduate in December '98 with a degree in finance."
Krayzelburg never trailed his teammate, Brad Bridgewater, the fastest qualifier, and finished in the time of 1:57.38, an American record and the fastest in the world this year. Bridgewater clocked 1:59.58. Aaron Piersol, 15, Irvine Nova, returned 2:01.39 for the bronze medal. After the race, Krayzelburg said, "I felt it was going to take an American record to win tonight." He was ahead of the world record pace for the first 150 metres. "I need to work on my last 50."
Misty Hyman, 19, Arizona Desert Fox, no longer able to use the unique underwater kick except for the first 10 metres, was the fastest qualifier in the 200 butterfly. In the finals she was upset by Molly Freedman, 17, Curl-Burke, losing by a fingernail. Freedman timed in 2:12.02 and Hyman, 2:12.05. Newcomer Kaylyn Keller, 13, Phoenix Swim Club, clocked 2:12.76 for third.
Tom Malchow, 21, Club Wolverine, silver medallist in the event at the 1998 World Championships, retained his 1997 National crown, clocking 1:56.75. Runners-up were Ugur Taner, Hillenbrand, 1:57.50, and Steven Brown, Reno Aquatic Club, 1:59.93.