Anita Nall is only 14, so it's safe to assume that her best swimming is still ahead of her. In that case, American swimming has a bright future, and Marylanders will play a big part in it. On Thursday, Nall, a Towson High School student who swims for the North Baltimore Aquatic Club, set a U.S. record for the 200-meter breast stroke and came within 37/100ths of a second of setting a new world record. Jill Johnson of Lutherville finished third in Nall's event, while Brandy Wood and Amanda White of the North Baltimore Aquatic Club finished 11th and 13th. Another Marylander, Mike Barrowman of Potomac, holds the world's record in the men's 200-meter breast stroke.
Nall will represent the United States in the Pan Pacific Games in Edmonton, Alberta, in August, where she has a strong chance of breaking the world record set by an East German swimmer in 1988. With the vast political changes in Eastern Europe has come the dismantling of the rigorous sports-training programs that made these countries Olympic powerhouses. The absence of those athletic machines, which produced professional athletes in all but name, will level the playing field somewhat for amateur athletes in other countries. Nall's new record suggests that U.S. athletes are preparing to make the most of their opportunities.