Anita Nall took her coach's advice by phone from Baltimore and followed it almost to the letter.
After losing her goggles and finishing with a disappointing time in the 200-meter breaststroke preliminaries in the Pan Pacific Championships yesterday in Edmonton, Canada, the 15-year-old Nall was consoled long-distance by North Baltimore Aquatic Club coach Murray Stephens.
"I told her to block it out and see if she could swim faster than anyone else in the final," Stephens said.
The Towson High sophomore almost did. Although relegated to the consolations, Nall's time of 2:31.10 was second only to finals winner Kristine Quance's 2:27.55. Quance easily broke the meet record of 2:29.58 set by Amy Shaw of the United States in 1987 and was within 47/100ths of a second of Nall's American mark.
Behind Quance of the United States in the final were Australia's Samantha Riley in 2:32.20, Japan's Kyoko
Kasuya in 2:32.53, Jill Johnson of Baltimore in 2:32.97 and four others with even slower times.
Nall, who had broken the American record with her 2:27.08 earlier in the year, finished fourth in the morning preliminaries in a dawdling 2:34. First in 2:30 was Quance, who lost by two seconds to Nall in the spring nationals, followed by Johnson, a graduate of Dulaney High and Stanford, in 2:32, and Australia's Linley Frame.
"My goggles fell off after the second 50," she told The Sun. "Everything becomes so unfocused. You become so disoriented. I just lost my concentration completely."
Nall didn't qualify for the final top eight because of the meet rule allowing only two swimmers from each country in a final. Johnson and Quance made it because their times in the prelims were faster.
Instead, Nall was relegated to the consolations, the second eight, although her time of 2:34 was better than those of the last four swimmers in the final.
Stephens also felt her slow time in the preliminaries
could be attributed to her youth (just turned 15), inexperience (first international meet) and the weight of expectations.
It was just four months ago that Nall broke the American record in the 200 breaststroke by 2 1/2 seconds in the Phillips 66/U.S. Swimming Spring Nationals with her 2:27.08, the second fastest time ever for the event.
"Anita was nervous and simply didn't feel comfortable," Stephens said. "The pressure, the atmosphere, the expectations.
"She tried to dance to too many others' expectations. No one her age is used to that. I told her about Cal Ripken, who knows all those thousands of people are always looking at him but turns it off.
"Turning off the antenna is not easy for a kid. It's good that she went through the experience now. She needs to relax and get more experience."
In Friday's 100 breaststroke, Nall was fourth in 1:11.01. Frame won, followed by fellow Australian Samantha Riley and Kelli King of St. Louis.