AUBURN, Alabama, December 7. WHEN Mary T. Meagher — the original Madame Butterfly — set her then American record of 1:52,99 in the 200 fly at the U.S. Nationals in Harvard's Blodgett Pool on April 8, 1981, she split 54.43 going out and came home in 58.56.
When Natalie Coughlin broke the record here this evening at the Tiger Invitational with her 1:51.91, she was out in 52.88, back in 59.03.
Her opening 100 split of 52.88 would have been a fast NCAA Division 1 100 fly just a few years ago and is still very respectable. But to go 52.8 en route to a 1:51.9…now that's flying.
Below is a comparison of T.'s and Coughlins splits:
Mary T. Meagher U.S. Nationals Cambridge 04/08/81
25.90 54.43 [28.53] 1:23.37 [28.94] 1:52.99 [29.62]
Natalie Coughlin Tiger Invitational Auburn 12/07/02
24.95 52.88 [27.92] 1:21.22 [28.78] 1:51.91 [30.25]
Although T. got home a bit quicker, Coughlin was out a full second and-a-half faster, and of course she holds the American/NCAA 100 fly record with her 50.01.
(When she did that time last March at NCAAs in Texas, a collective groan was heard from spectators and coaches alike. Why? People were disappointed she hadn't cracked the "magic" 50.0 barrier as she did a few moments later in the 100 back.)
T.'s still No. 2 all-time (performer-performance) and her performance at Harvard is still the 17-18 NAG record. The record she broke was her own, a 1:53.21 from a meet in Cincinnati the previous March
Her 100 fly pr is 52.42 that won her the NCAA title for Coughlin's alma mater, Cal, at the '87 Championships in Indianapolis — her final collegiate competition. She also won the 200 that season in 1:55.54, which was about a second slower than her then- collegiate record of 54.52 from the previous year's NCAAs at Arkansas.
Subsequent to T.'s record-breaking effort at Harvard, where she also swam the 100 fly in 53.00, just .01 shy of current Texas women's coach Jill Sterkel's 52.99 that won — MTM set a pair of world records that summer during the U.S. Nationals in Brown Deer, WI.
She swam 2:05.96 on opening day to set the 200 record, then did a 57.93 in the 100 three days later — records that would remain on the books for nearly two decades.
– Bill Bell.