Wood looking to drop in on Pan Am leaders

August 01, 1991|By Doug Brown | Doug Brown,Evening Sun Staff

On the door of Brandy Wood's bedroom is a poster announcing, in flashing fluorescent colors, the upcoming Pan American Games in Havana, Cuba.

She put it there July 12 to remind her what she wanted to do exactly one month hence. Bold numbers on the poster proclaim: 4:44.

On Aug. 12, on the first day of the Pan Am swimming events, Wood will churn through the 400-meter individual medley in a time, she hopes, that will approximate 4:44.

"Murray and I think I can do it," Wood said, referring to her North Baltimore Aquatic Club coach, Murray Stephens.

A June graduate of Dulaney High, Wood is the only swimmer from the state named to the Pan Am team. The selection was based on her sixth-place finish in the 400 IM in the national championships in April.

Her time then was 4:52.3. And now she has the bright idea of ripping off a 4:44? It would be a staggering drop. Even that is well above Janet Evans' American record of 4:37.75.

"I talked it over with Murray," Wood said. "I'll need a time like that if I expect to place at the Olympic Trials next March."

Where Wood places in Havana depends in part on who's in the field. It should be remembered that the best

swimmers -- the ones who finished first or second in the spring nationals -- are going later in August to the Pan Pacific Championships in Edmonton, Canada. That trip is the main plum.

In the 400 IM in the Pan Ams, there will be a Canadian who has dipped under 4:50 and a few others right around Wood's 4:52 time. Only the Canadian and American women are strong in the event.

"If Brandy does her best time, she could be second or third," Stephens said. "If she's excited about it, she can do 4:44, although it's a bit of a reach. I'm hoping she'll go under 4:50.

"It'll be an accomplishment for our athletes just to survive. There could be problems with the heat, food, transportation and pool maintenance. The Cubans are going out of their way to make the Pan Ams a showcase, but there's not a Marriott or a McDonald's on every corner."

It is Stephens' experience that once a swimmer clears one hurdle, it is frequently a long time before she clears the next. In the 1989 junior nationals, Wood won the 200 breaststroke in 2:38. Until she knocked a second off that time this spring, she hadn't improved in that event in 18 months.

"She had to get over that junior nationals accomplishment," Stephenssaid.

In the 400 IM two years ago Wood did a 5:01, following that with a 4:58 last year. Then, in April, the stunning six-second drop to 4:52. Can she come back with another big drop in Havana?

To speed her development, Wood spent 2 1/2 weeks at a distance training camp in Hawaii in June. The country's top swimmers in the 400 IM were invited along with other leading distance swimmers for the pleasure of swimming 21,000 yards a day.

"It was demanding, six hours a day," Wood said. "We had a few days at the beach, a luau and some shopping, but mostly it was swimming. It was challenging, and made me stronger and more disciplined."

After the Pan Ams, Wood will head for the University of Florida on an athletic scholarship, following the lead of several other local swimmers, including 1984 Olympic champion Theresa Andrews and three-time national champion Julie Gorman. Florida's women were third in the NCAA championships in March.

While Wood is in Havana, Gorman, now 23, will swim in the Phillips 66 National Championships Aug. 12-16 at Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Other North Baltimore Aquatic Club swimmers who qualified include Amanda White in the 100 and 200 breaststroke, Heather Ray in the 100 and 200 backstroke and Scott Conley in the 200 butterfly.

Gorman, attempting a comeback in hopes of making the U.S. Olympic team next year, is entered in the 100 and 200 butterfly and 200 IM in the nationals. She is trying to regain her edge after taking three months off early this year. Gorman schedules her temporary job -- in computer support with Maryland Casualty -- around her NBAC workouts.

E9 "It's coming back, slowly but steadily," Gorman said.

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