By Phillip Whitten
LONG BEACH, Calif., July 9. AMANDA Beard was attempting a difficult double.
Just 35 minutes after winning the final of the 100-meter breaststroke, the 22 year-old newly-minted, three-time Olympian found herself standing on the blocks for the start of the first of two semifinal heats in the 200 IM.
In prelims, 15 year-old Katie Hoff had posted the fastest time, 2:13.50, to lay down a challenge to her elder. Could Amanda respond – especially so soon after a brutal 100-meter breaststroke final?
The answer was not long in coming. Blasting off the blocks, Amanda turned after the 50 fly in 29.37, just behind Wisconsin Aquatics’ Bethany Pendleton, at 29.20. In the backstroke leg, Pendleton added a few hundredths to her lead, turning in 1:03.53 to Beard’s 1:03.82.
Then Beard called on her strongest suit, the breaststroke. Splitting 36.75, she quickly passed Pendleton and broke the race wide open, then powered home to win in a lifetime best 2:12.02. A US Open and Olympic Trials record, it was the world’s fastest time this year and only 11-hundredths off Summer Sanders’ American record from the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.
Ah, but there still was another heat to go, and it featured North Baltimore’s Hoff, the winner of the 400 IM and a youngster who knows no limits. Would Beard’s time survive Hoff’s inevitable challenge?
Meeting expectations, Hoff went out hard and split 28.60 seconds for the 50 fly, three-quarters of a second ahead of Beard. At the end of the backstroke, Hoff had opened up almost a full second lead over beard’s pace, but led rising star Whitney Myers, a 19 year-old Tucson Ford teammate of Beard’s, by only 7-hundredths.
Hoff is an outstanding breaststroker, and she quickly shook Myers. But her 38.00-second breaststroke split put her a quarter of a second behind Beard’s pace at the final turn. Charging home, the youngster fell a little farther behind Beard, but her 2:12.55 was also under the former US Open and Trials record of 2:12.64, held by none other than Tracy Caulkins. It was also a 15-16 national age group record.
Myers qualified third in 2:14.69, just ahead of 2001 world champion Maggie Bowen’s 2:14.90.