Naval Academy swim club makes splash at U.S. Open Young relay team captures 3rd place

December 20, 1992|By Roch Eric Kubatko | Roch Eric Kubatko,Staff Writer

They were the youngest relay team at the U.S. Open, and the first from the Naval Academy Junior Swim Club to qualify for the national competition.

In a sense, the four girls had made their mark by the time they arrived in Orlando, Fla., earlier this month to compete against university and club teams in the 400-meter freestyle relay.

But they weren't content merely to soak up some sunshine, make new friends and head back home. They were all business, and it showed in their performances.

Maggie Phillips, 16, of Millersville; Joan Chidester, 16, of Crofton; Amy Betz, 16, of Millersville; and Natalie Phillips, 14, of Millersville, took third place in the meet with a time of 4 minutes, 2.80 seconds. Only Southern Methodist University and Bolles School (Fla.) finished higher.

And that wasn't all. The group also took sixth in the 800 freestyle relay at 8:48.39, and finished in a seventh-place tie with Stanford University among 58 club teams in the overall standings.

In individual time trials, Chidester made junior national cuts in the 200 and 500 freestyles, and Betz did likewise in the 100 butterfly. That means another trip to Florida -- this time, to Gainesville -- in the spring.

Maggie Phillips had personal best times in the 50-yard and 50-meter freestyles, and made the junior national cut in the 50-meter event at 27.84. Her sister, Natalie, eclipsed her personal best in the 100-meter freestyle by a full second.

As for the relay race, "The first thing we wanted to accomplish was just to get in the same pool as people from other countries, and the college swimmers, and be able to handle it

and not be blown away by the competition. I knew they could do that," said seventh-year coach Carol Chidester.

"However we placed, that was icing on the cake."

Maggie Phillips swam the first leg of the race "because she's one of the fastest and we wanted to get off to a good start," Chidester said. Natalie Phillips was next, followed by Betz and Joan Chidester.

"When Natalie took off, I was still relaxed and comfortable," said Carol Chidester. "When Betz took off, I catapulted out of the bleachers and ran over as close as I could get. It really got exciting.

"When our anchor [Joan] took off, after her first two strokes, I knew nobody in the world would catch her. I said, 'We're going to get a third-place medal and no one is going to take it away from us.' "

Joan, who is Carol's daughter, wasn't as certain. "A couple of teams were pretty close. I don't have very good vision, so I couldn't tell how everyone else was doing. I just went as hard as I could," she said.

A junior at Severn School, Joan has been swimming for the Navy club team since age 10. Her credentials are impressive.

Chidester has been a member of the Maryland State Zone All-Star

team three times. She possesses numerous Navy records -- including one for her time of 5:16.10 in the 400-meter individual medley -- and attended the Olympic Gold Camp at the Colorado Training Center last year, along with Betz. She qualified for her first junior national meet two years ago in the 100- and 200-yard freestyles.

Betz, a junior at Key School, began swimming for the club team 10 years ago. She, too, is a three-time member of the Maryland State Zone All-Star team, and qualified for her first junior nationals at age 14, with a time of 2:08.19 in the 200-yard backstroke.

"It was a matter of rising to the occasion," said Betz, who was the only Navy swimmer to make the finals in an individual event at the Long Course Championships in Charlotte, N.C., in August, placing eighth in the 200-meter freestyle.

"We all felt like we wanted to do better than we ever had before. It was really exciting. We didn't know what to expect. We just wanted to do well in our heat."

Maggie and Natalie Phillips attend Old Mill High, and each began swimming for the club team five years ago. They were members of the Maryland State Zone All-Star team that competed at Princeton University last spring.

During the summer, Natalie became the youngest Navy swimmer to qualify for the junior nationals when she posted a time of 2:26.12 in the 200-meter backstroke at the Potomac Valley Meet. She returned last week from Colorado Springs after being selected as one of 30 swimmers from a field of more than 100 to participate in the Olympic Silver Camp.

"We weren't really sure what the competition would be like," said Natalie, who holds several team records in the freestyle and butterfly. "I don't think we were expecting to get third place.

"The competition was a little intimidating, but we were really prepared. We just wanted to do as well as we could."

Maggie qualified for the junior nationals with a top-16 time of 52.83 in the 100-yard freestyle while at the Maryland State Zone All-Star meet. That broke existing zone and Navy records.

"We were hoping to place, but we didn't think we'd get a third," said Maggie, a member of the Annapolis Water Polo Club the last two years.

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