Anita Nall, a Towson High freshman, came within 37/100ths of a second of the world record in the women's 200-meter breaststroke in the Phillips 66/U.S. Spring Nationals last night in Seattle.
Nall, 14, who swims for the North Baltimore Aquatic Club, won the event in 2:27.08, lopping an astonishing 2 1/2 seconds off the U.S. record of 2:29.58 set by Amy Shaw in 1987. The world mark of 2:26.71 was set by East Germany's Silke Horner during the 1988 Olympics. Nall's time is the second best in history.
"I feel pretty good," Nall said by phone moments after her record swim. Only pretty good? "Well, real good," she said, giggling. "I'm excited."
Nall's victory put her on the U.S. team that will compete in the Pan Pacific Games Aug. 22-25 in Edmonton, Canada.
Kristine Quance finished second, almost three seconds behind Nall, and another Baltimorean, Jill Johnson, was third in 2:32.5. Johnson's finish qualified her for the Pan American Games Aug. 11-17 in Havana. NBAC's Brandy Wood and Amanda White were 11th and 13th, respectively.
"Anita does so many things required in the breaststroke so well," said NBAC coach Murray Stephens of the 5-foot-5, 123-pound swimmer. "She may not be the best kicker or the best arm puller, but she is balanced. She stays on top of the water so well, more out than under. That enables her to slide through the water with less resistance."
To give Nall a respite, Stephens scratched her from today's 400 individual medley. Stephens considers her the "probable favorite" in tomorrow's 100 breaststroke, even though she is seeded behind Tori De Silva and Lydia Morrow.
"Neither one of them is swimming that well," Stephens said.
Nall also is entered in the 200 IM Sunday, the final day of the meet.
Nall first broke the American record in yesterday's preliminaries, trimming 1.7 seconds off Shaw's mark with a time of 2:27.89.
Nall burst onto the national scene last December when she won the 200 breaststroke at the U.S. Open in Indianapolis. Her time of 2:30.53 was the third fastest in American history.
It ranked only behind those of Shaw and Tracey McFarlane (2:29.82 in 1988) among U.S. swimmers. In the space of four months, from August, when she posted a 2:34.73, until last December, Nall rose from No. 39 to No. 7 in the world.
Had Nall recorded her 2:30.53 at the senior long course nationals last August, she would have been named to the U.S. team that competed in the World Championships in January in Australia. Johnson made that team, and her best time was 2:32.45.
Nall joined NBAC in August 1989 after her father John, a manager for Social Security, was transferred from Harrisburg to Baltimore. Before that, swimming for the West Shore YMCA in Harrisburg, she was ranked No. 1 in the country among 12-year-olds in the 50- and 100-yard breaststroke events.
"When she came here," Stephens said back in December, "all her experience was in yards, none in meters. She has gone from a good National Junior Olympics swimmer to No. 7 in the world. She has a real chance of making the 1992 Olympic team."
The spring nationals are serving as a selection meet for the Pan Pacific Games, the Pan American Games, the World University Games July 15-21 in England and the U.S. Olympic Festival July 12-21 in Los Angeles.
Nall and Johnson were not the only local swimmers to qualify.
U.S. Olympian and world record-holder Mike Barrowman of Potomac easily won the 200-meter breaststroke by beating Roque Santos by nearly three seconds. Barrowman clocked 2:12.61, while Santos recorded a 2:15.17.
In other races of note, world record-holder Melvin Stewart failed in his bid to win $100,000 being offered by Las Vegas hotel and casino owner Bob Stupak to any member of the Las Vegas Gold Swim Team to set a world record.
Stewart, 22, a University of Tennessee junior who plans to pass up his final year of college eligibility to prepare for the 1992 Olympics, was clocked in 1:56.83 in the men's 200 butterfly. He set his world record of 1:55.69 at the World Championships.