LOS ANGELES, Dec. 8. WHILE Cal's Natalie Coughlin was setting the waters of the Texas Swimming Center aflame last weekend during the Longhorn Invitational, several other NCAA Division 1 collegians from across the
country were making their case for stardom too.
Foremost among them was USC senior Tamas Kerekjarto, a Hungarian Olympian who wouldn't mind emulating the feat of fellow Magyar star Attila Czene, who won Olympic gold at Atlanta in the 200 IM five years ago — and then won the NCAA 200 IM title for Arizona State last year.
Nor would Kerekjarto mind duplicating the feat of current Sun Devil Hungarian star Agnes Kovacs, who struck gold at Sydney in the 200 breast, then splashed to a another in Fukuoka this summer at the World
Kerekjarto won the 200 IM at Texas in a nation-leading 1:45.74, not far off his pr 1:45.56 from last spring's NCAAs at College Station. Next on his agenda is Czene's Pac-10 record (1:44.08 from last year). The USC school-record is 1:44.70 by Dave Wharton from the 1989 NCAAs in Idnianapolis — then the American-record too.
Presumably his coach, Trojan boss Mark Schubert, wouldn't be upset were Kerekjarto also to break the U.S. Open-NCAA standard of 1:42.85 by Texas' Nate Dusing from last season's collegiate championships– history's only only sub 1:43.0 clocking.
(Presumably Schubert would be equally happy with an NCAA team title, something he's yet to win after a decade at the Trojan helm and something USC hasn't accomplished since the John Naber era a quarter-century ago. Schubert has, however, won a pair of NCAA women's championships while at Texas in '90-'91, and added a third ring when he guided SC to the
Championship in the middle of the last decade.)
Kerekjarto was top qualifier in the 400 IM (3:51.81) but was disqualified in the finals. In the 200 fly he went a pr 1:45.17 in the prelims and at night was third behind Arizonans Juan Veloz (pr 1:44.50) and Jeff Dash (1:45.15). Kerekjarto's old pr was a 1:45.74 from last season's Pac-10s.
Junior teammate Eric Vendt, NCAA mile champ as a freshman and 400 IM runner-up last season to Michigan's Tim Siciliano (3:40.77-3:40.98 — third
and fourth on the all-time performers-performances' list), won in a list-leading 3:48.45. His clocking at College Station last March was a Trojan school record, breaking the old mark of 3:42.23 by Wharton from the
'88 NCAAs at Indianapolis. At that time SC was guided by legendary headman Peter Daland, whose teams won a whopping 10 team titles.
Vendt was Sydney silver medalist in the 400 IM behind teammate and world-record-setter Tom Dolan, whose 3:38.18 win at the '95 NCAAs is still the American-collegiate standard. Florida's Greg Burgess' 3:40.64 that won NCAAs in '94 is history's second-fastest time.
Siciliano has used up his collegiate eligibility so Vendt is fatest among returnees.
Additonally, Vendt won the 1650 free (national No. 1 14:52.27) with Harvard soph John Cole (14:56.01) giving chase. Vendt was third at NCAAs in the
mile (pr 14:45.69) but he's got a ways to go before he's close to Michigander Chris Thompson's American-NCAA standard 14:26.62 that won the gold there. Siciliano was second (14:40.84).
Cole took fifth in that race with a Harvard and Eastern record 14:49.48 while Minnesota's Justin Mortimer, also a freshman last season, was fourth
(pr and Gopher record 14:47.82) All are expected to be in action come the final weekend of March at the Universoity of Georgia, site of the '02 NCAA meet.
The SC record is 14:41.43 by Mike O'Brien from the '85 NCAAs in Austin 16 years ago, which followed O'Brien's gold in the "mile" at the Los Angeles Olympics the previous summer when he was coached by — you guessed it — Schubert, while the duo was together at Mission Viejo.
The Pac-10 record is 14:32.50 by Arizona's South African Olympian, Ryk Neethling, that won the former Wildcat the '98 NCAA title.
If Vendt's going to get Thompson's (let alone Neethling's) record he's got this year and next to do it as United States Swimming won't be holding any
of its spring Nationals as yards affairs for the forseeable future.
A third Trojan also went a nation-leading time at Texas, defending NCAA 500 free champ Klete Keller, who won in 4:19.80. Keller went a pr 4:14.67 to win his first collegiate championship. He'll be after O'Brien's Trojan record of 4:13.06 (also from the '85 NCAAs) this spring. Arizona's Chad Carvin's 4:11.59, good for the '94 NCAa title, is the Pac-10 record and also history's second-fastest 500 behind Dolan's AR 4:08.75 the following year.
Although her times were merely pedestrian at Texas, Trojan froshwoman Kaitlin Sandeno, will most assuredly not be "pedestrian" come Pac-10s and NCAAs, where'll she be contending for titles in the 500 free, 400 IM, 200 fly and perhaps the mile if Schubert enters her there.
Stanford's Jessica Foschi is defending NCAA 500 champ and went a nation-leading 4:37.9 to win at Texas. Her career-best is 4:37.81 that won NCAAs. Florida's Jamacican Olympian Janelle Atkinson, a soph for the Gators who was Prep Swimmer of the Year the season in 1999, has a pr of 4:37.91 from two years ago and Virginia junior Cara Lane has been a sub 4:40.0 too.
Whether any of these ladies has the ability to threaten Janet Evans American-NCAA record 4:34.59 from the '90 Championships remains to be determined — let alone her 15:39.14 1650 record.
(And imagine what those records might be had Evans not opted to leave Stanford following her sophomore season, forsaking collegiate eligibility to train under Schubert for Barcelona — where she won the Olympic gold in the 400 free.)
* * * * *
At the 54th Husky Invitational in Seattle (Federal Way), UCLA's women, defending Pac-10 Champs, and Washington's men won team titles and turned in
several record-breaking swims.
Foremost was Washington junior Kim Harada, a San Lorenzo, CA. native who set school records in the 50-100 frees(22.82-49.63) while establishing herself
as a legitimate threat for conference honors.
The 5-9 Harada had never broken the "magic" 23.0/50.0 barriers. She's now poised to build upon her successes to try and reach a national level of
competitiveness not yet seen by any Husky woman swimmer.
Harada was second in both sprints to UCLA's Sarah Platzer, a Washington native who still holds the state prep record in the 100 free from two years ago. Platzer went 21.91 to win the 50, then came back lastSunday evening to win the 100 free in a pr and school-record 49.33.
Teammate Elvira Fischer, an Austrian Olympian who transferred in from Nebraska, won the 100-200 breaststrokes in 1:02.51-2:13.65, both NCAA "B" cuts. Fischer's prs are 1:01.83/2:11.27, both from last spring's NCAAs in East Meadow, and both times are supereior to current UCLA school records. The 200 is, however, the 'Husker school standard.
A third Bruin, freshman Mailin Svensohn, a Swedish import whom UCLA coach Cyndi Gallagher believes has great potential, won the 200 free-200 IM in 1:48.56-2:10.37 — the latter another Bruin record.
UCLA soph Kristen Lewis (pr 1:59.52) won the 200 fly and teammate Jen Noodle (pr 2:15.01) was second in the 200 breast.
Two other Huskies fared well, including breststroker Luke Eckoff, who set a UW record with his 1:58.07 200 victory; and backstroker Desiree Johnson, who made the NCAA "B" cutwith her 55.94 100 win — a mere .01 off the Washington record of 55.93.
After UW Athletic Director Barbara Hedges (the only woman AD at the DI level) nearly dismantled the Huskies' men's team last year, the program has made a 360-degree turn. Funding has been promised for both women's and men's teams and a new pool in the offing on campus (hey, maybe they'll tear down Husky Stadium or perhaps Hec Edmondson Pavilion to make room).
* * * * *
There was no energy crisis at Athens last weekend as Coach Jack Bauerle's Lady 'Dawgs — triple-defending NCAA Champs — showed they're not quite ready to give up their crown yet as they won the annual Bulldog Invitational in impressive fashion, while Coach Dennis Dale's Minnesota Golden Gophers were winning the men's title.
Georgia? Triple-defending NCAA women's champ? Stop the presses!!! There must be some mistake. Say it ain't so, Wally Butts (Herschel? "Frantic" Francis?)
Yes, it IS true, the 'Dawgs have three-consecutive wins on their side of the ledger and come the third weekend of March in Austin are primed to make it
Last weekend at their home pool 'Dawg Stefanie Williams showed her heels to the field with fine unshaved 22.69, 48.76and 1:46.00 50-100-200 free wins. Williams, a senior, holds Georgia records in the 100-200 (48.71-1:45.63) so in both races she was not far off her own prs and ranks among the national
leaders in each.
Versatile 'Dawg froshwoman Katie Yevak, a product of Coach Pete Malone's KC Blazer program, won both IMs (2:01.92-4:15.4:15.96) and was third in the 200 fly (1:59.98 to winner Rachel Johnson of Northwestern's 1:59.56). Yevak's been 1:58 low in this latter race earlier in the season in a dual meet against Stanford at The Farm.
Bauerle believes Yevak can be a big finalist in perhaps three events and a win or two would be even better.
'Dawg junior Maritza Correia, who's equally adept in the 100 through the 500 frees (prs are 48.49, 1:45.48 and 4:41.02, with the latter two Georgia records), was third in the 200 (1:49+) and runner-up to Williams (49.09) in the 100. She too is a potential triple big finals scorer, as of course is Williams.
Georgia's other potential triple-threat is breast-stroker-IMer Ashley Roby, who has prs of 59.91-2:11.28 in the breaststrokes and 1:58.59 in the 200 IM, all among the fastest times of any returning DI swimmer. Teammate Jamie Skinner's been 2:10.34 and gives the
'Dawgs added depth, as does backstroker Neka Mabry, who was second in the 100-200 (55.92-pr 1:59.21).
Alabama's German Olympian, Anne Poleska, defending SEC 200 breast champ who was third at NCAAs, looked sharp here, winning in 1:01.12-2:10.37. Her prs are 1:00.85-2:08.85, fourth on botht he all-time performers-performances' lists.
Alabama's rapidly becoming a "mini UN" when it comes to swimming. In addition to Poleska, Coach Don Wagner's Crimson Tide has imported Romanian
butterflyer Stefan Gherghel, who won in 47.22-1:44.93. His 100 clocking is fastest nationally. Another import is France's Franck Southon, a freshman
IMer-backstroker, who won the 400 medley (pr 3:50.77) and finaled in the 200 back (1:47.18). The Tide's Michelle King won the 100 back (55.80).
Minnesota's Todd Smolinski, defending Big 10 champ and conference record-holder (46.91) won the 100 48.22) and teammate Ben Bartell won the 200 (1:46.14). In the 500-1650 frees, Golden Gopher Mortimer was tops in
unshaved prs of 4:23.52-15:16.78. Southon's 4:25+ was second in the former.
Alabama also got wins from Jordie Proffitt in the 200 IM (1:49.10) and James Wiclox (200 free, 1:37.40).
Northwestern's Carmen Cosgrove went a pr to win the 100 fly (54.21) and Minnesota's Jeff Hackler won the 100 breast (54.83). His pr's 53.89 from last season's Big 10s, just off the Minnesota record of 53.85.
Runner-up was Florida State's Wickhus Nienaber in a pr 54.86. Nienaber's a native of Swaziland, a former South African "homeland," and is probably the only collegiate swimmer from his nation. No word yet on whether Bobby Bowden's recruiting there.
In the women's 200 breast the runner-up was Michigan's Kelli Stein, who went a pr 2:14.67. She's a transfer to Coach Jim Richardson's Lady Wolverine program from Kentucky. Third was Minnesota's Keri Hehn (2:15.85) who has a pr of 2:13.86 while a member of Coach Cal Bentz's Nebraska team last season.
– Bill Bell