The freshest evidence that Baltimore's Anita Nall is among the elite of American swimming comes in the form of a monthly check.
The 15-year-old American record-holder in the 200-meter breast stroke is one of more than 30 leading U.S. swimmers receiving $1,500 a month.
That's the good news. The bad news -- or some college coaches might construe it as that -- is that Nall, a high school sophomore, has thereby forfeited her NCAA eligibility.
fTC If she goes on to college, she will not be allowed to receive an athletic scholarship or compete on a varsity team, although she will be permitted to practice with it. Nall made her decision after consulting with her parents, John and Marilyn Nall, and North Baltimore Aquatic Club coach Murray Stephens.
"Murray figures there's potential for a lot more money," Nall said after winning the 200-meter breast stroke at the U.S. Open Sunday in Minneapolis. "If there's a chance, why not?"
She was referring to endorsement opportunities if she makes the U.S. Olympic team and fares well in the Games in Barcelona next summer.
She would get a $5,000 bonus for a world record. She came within 37/100 of a second of that with her American-record 2 minutes, 27.08 seconds at the Phillips 66 National Championships last April in Federal Way, Wash. The record was set in 1988 by East Germany's Silke Horner.
The swimmers who get paid by U.S. Swimming, the sport's national governing body, are determined by time standards. Those with the fastest times in each event are culled from world rankings and World Championships results.
Each of the top four swimmers in an event receives the same $1,500 monthly stipend. However, if a swimmer is in the top four in two events, it's worth an extra $500 a month. Phillips Petroleum Co. is U.S. Swimming's principal sponsor.
"Once a person reaches the standard, as Anita did last spring, she's paid through the Olympic Trials in March [1-7] in Indianapolis," said Jimmy Flowers, the national team coordinator for U.S. Swimming. "After the Olympic team is picked, we'll develop new criteria."
Nall, who started her sophomore year at Towson High School in September, transferred this week to Towson Catholic.
"Towson Catholic is a smaller school," Nall said. "They will be more flexible about letting me make up schoolwork when I'm away at a meet or a training camp."
Nall's next competition will be the NBAC Christmas Meet at Towson State, Dec. 14-16. She will leave Dec. 17 with the rest of NBAC's leading swimmers for two weeks of training in Barbados.
Nall's qualifying time of 2:30.85 in the 200 breast stroke Sunday was well over her American record, but still the sixth fastest time in the world this year. The fastest was her record 2:27.08.
"No one in the world during the current fall season has done a 2:30 like Anita did Sunday," Stephens said. "It was a pool record and a pretty solid performance.
"She was only 3 1/2 seconds over her best time and was unshaved, unrested and had been out of the water two weeks after having her tonsils out last month."
Nall's time was more than four seconds better than that of the next American, Jill Johnson, also of Baltimore. Johnson did a 2:36 but was disqualified in the preliminaries for dipping her shoulder on a turn.
With the Olympic Trials less than three months off, Stephens is looking for ever-improving practice efforts from Nall.
"I'd like to see her begin lifetime best practices, day after day," Stephens said. "Of course, you can't always have that. A swimmer can get sick, hurt, tired or stressed out from school. The idea is to build from one day to the next. Ideally, you'd like a schedule free of interruptions and distractions."
You can't always have that, either, especially if you're a high school sophomore.