Nall doing it all 15-year-old swims to 2nd Olympic spot

March 05, 1992|By Bill Glauber | Bill Glauber,Staff Writer

INDIANAPOLIS -- The onslaught is coming. Marilyn and John Nall can see that now.

A week ago, their daughter, Anita, was a closely kept secret, the kid who liked sleeping at home on a water bed and who was so fanatical about recycling, she'd bring home wastepaper from school.

Now, all of a sudden, she's a world-record holder.

Bob Costas wants to talk with her. A couple of agents circle her as she emerges from the pool. A woman peddling Power Bars is shoving a business card at her, even as she stands dripping wet, reaching for a towel.

"I can't believe it," Marilyn Nall said. "Here, my little 15-year-old is an Olympian."

All the parents can do now is stand by, watch and wonder how in the world they'll pay for a trip to Barcelona, Spain.

Last night, Anita Nall, the sophomore from Towson Catholic High School, continued her remarkable ascent to swimming stardom. She won the women's 100-meter breast stroke at the Phillips 66 National Swimming Championships and earned her second starting spot in the Summer Olympics in Barcelona.

Again, she went through a news conference. It was easier, much easier than when she twice lowered the world record to win the 200 breast stroke Monday.

"I didn't expect anything at this meet," Anita Nall said. "I thought of personal goals, of doing my best times, not of making the team."

But now she's on the team. She showed some guts on the final 50 last night, coming back from third to first to win in 1 minute, 9.29 seconds. Megan Kleine, a 17-year-old high school junior from Lexington, Ky., finished second in 1:10.08, and also made the Olympic team. Jill Johnson, 22, a 1986 Dulaney High graduate, was fourth in 1:10.25.

"It was close, real close," John Nall said. "But no one beats Anita in the second 50. When she gets that stroke going, she's hard to beat."

But there are few sure things in swimming. This meet, which serves as the Olympic trials, finally was hit by an upset.

Mike Barrowman of Potomac, Md., the world-record holder in the men's 200 breast stroke and unbeaten since he finished fourth in the 1988 Summer Olympics, was touched out at the wall by Roque Santos of Chico, Calif. The two are teammates for the Curl-Burke swim team in Rockville, Md., and they'll be teammates on the Olympic team.

But it was strange to see Santos accept the gold after winning in 2:13.50 and Barrowman take the silver after finishing in 2:13.54, nearly three seconds slower than his world record of 2:10.60.

"It was a great race, until the dive," Barrowman said.

At the finish, it was Santos who was trying to leap out of the pool, thrusting his right fist in the air, while Barrowman leaned his head back against the finish wall and floated with a shocked expression on his face.

"The first summer I trained with Mike, I beat him three times," said Santos, a former high school football player turned full-time swimmer. "What this race showed is that anyone can lose on any day."

Barrowman said the defeat lessens the pressure he'll face heading into the Olympics. He added, "If I were looking for excuses, I could find a hundred of them."

But at the head of the list would be the brain tumor that has left his father, Ray, 52, hospitalized.

"It's really difficult," Barrowman said. "Sometimes, he is with it. Sometimes, he is not. I call him every single day to see how he's doing, and it's tough. Sure, it's distracting. But it's definitely not an excuse."

Anita Nall has no such problems. She appears carefree, enjoying a huge burst of success and publicity.

"Anita is pretty composed and together for a 15-year-old," said her mother, a secretary at Towson State.

Anita Nall displayed her resolve yesterday. Despite a cold that left her coughing, and in second after the morning heats, she came back in the night final and used a final ferocious burst in the last 20 meters to win.

"I didn't see anyone near me," she said. "I had to pick it up at the end."

In the stands, her parents watched, with just a little awe.

"This takes total dedication and commitment for Anita," said John Nall, a manager for Social Security. "It takes a lot of hours. A lot of support. Not just from her family, but her friends. The secret for Anita is that she does this because she wants to, not because she is forced to. If she says she doesn't want to swim anymore, I'd say, 'Great.' "

But, now, the Nalls are trying to figure out how they'll get to Barcelona. They said they always expected their daughter would be an Olympian. But they figured it would come in 1996 in Atlanta, not 1992 in Barcelona.

"My God, this is too big," Marilyn Nall said. "Anita is one of the best. Barcelona? I don't know where to start."

But the Olympian is still a kid. An hour after her race, her mother had to remind her to collect her favorite towel. And for a few frantic moments, she lost her gold medal. Not to worry, though. It was in her equipment bag.

"Great breast stroker," John Nall said. "We'll have to work on the memory."

(Distances in meters; top two finishers qualify for Olympic team)

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