INDIANAPOLIS -- Anita Nall of Towson set the world record today in the women's 200-meter breast stroke at the Phillips 66 National Swimming championships.
While her 10th-grade classmates back at Towson Catholic High School were eating lunch today, Nall, 15, set the world record in a qualifying race with a time of 2 minutes, 25.92 seconds. She bettered the record of 2:26.71 established by East Germany's Silke Hoerner at the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea.
"I was really excited to swim," Nall said. "The first lap, I felt great. I kept going the whole way."
But the record-setting perform ance was just the first act for Nall. She still must finish in the top two in tonight's final to gain a berth in the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, Spain.
Still, the race showed that Nall is one of swimming's young superstars. Asked what she normally would be doing at 11:20 on a Monday morning at Towson Catholic, Nall smiled and said, "Eating spaghetti."
Her classmates sent her off to these Olympic trials with a stuffed Owl, the school's mascot, some muffins and a troll doll emblazoned with the words, "All-American."
"It was neat," Nall said.
Nall stormed past her rivals in the first 10 meters this morning, and swam alone for nearly two-thirds of the race. The crowd at the Indiana University Natatorium urged her on, screaming "Go, go," as she kept on a world-record pace for all four laps of the race.
"The crowd helped me a lot," Nall said. "That is one of the best things about swimming, when you're going fast and the crowd is yelling."
In the last 10 meters of the race, Nall said she "felt some pain." But she appeared to glide to the finish.
"I felt really strong," she said. "It always hurts toward the end of the race."
When Nall finished, the crowd roared. Still looking at the finish wall, Nall sank momentarily in the water, popped back above the surface and turned around to look at the scoreboard. When she saw her world-record time, Nall reached over to Stanford's Lori Heisick in Lane 3, and the swimmers embraced.
"I'm not surprised," Nall said. "I'm happy. I've wanted to do that time for a while."
Nall's coach at the North Baltimore Aquatic Club, Murray Stephens, also said he was not surprised by the record-setting performance. For nearly two years, he has predicted that Nall would emerge as the world's top breast stroke performer.
"Anita can do amazing things," he said. "We think she can be a little bit better. She has a lot more potential in her. She can set a new standard in breast-stroke swimming, the way Mary T. Meagher set a standard in the butterfly."
Mark Schubert, the U.S. women's Olympic coach, agreed.
"Anita has given such great performances all year long," he said. "Everyone expected this of her. She can go even faster. I have no doubts in my mind. And I don't think she has any doubts in her mind."
"I just went for it this morning," Nall said. "I wasn't saving anything."
Asked about the possibility of setting the record and then not making the Olympic team, Nall said: "You just have to block that out and pretend it's not there. I think I'll go rest and see what I can do tonight."