Nall finishes strong fourth Short of Olympic berth, it lifts her hopes for 200

March 08, 1996|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

INDIANAPOLIS -- Anita Nall did not make the 1996 Olympic team last night, but she and North Baltimore Aquatic Club coach Murray Stephens both agreed that she did take a giant step toward re-establishing herself as one of the world's top swimmers in the breaststroke.

Nall, who was ranked 84th in the world in the 100-meter breaststroke last year, shaved nearly two seconds off her qualifying time during a preliminary heat yesterday morning and improved on that effort to finish fourth in the 100-meter final at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials. That wasn't good enough to earn a trip to Atlanta, but it should provide a big confidence boost going into tomorrow's 200-meter event.

"I think that puts me in pretty good position for the 200," Nall said. "Most people think that the 200 is my better event, and I have a day to recover and refocus on it."

Fourteen-year-old Amanda Beard of Irvine, Calif., won the 100 meters and Southern Cal's Kristine Quance finished second to all but guarantee a place on the Olympic team, which should ease the disappointment of her controversial disqualification in the 400-meter individual medley Wednesday.

Several other subplots played out during the three-event program on the second day of competition at the Indiana University Natatorium:

World-record holder Tom Dolan challenged the record he set at the 1994 World Championships in the 400-meter individual medley and finished with the third-best time in history (4: 12.72). The victory all but erased doubts about his physical condition after a mysterious bout with fatigue.

"I'm relieved, Tommy's relieved," said Jon Urbanchek, who coaches Dolan at Michigan. "When someone is not functioning this close to the trials after he worked so hard, sure, I was worried. But I tried not to show it."

New York 17-year-old Christina Teuscher turned in the only sub-2: 00 time in the 200-meter freestyle to secure a place on the U.S. team. Florida's Trina Jackson earned the second berth in the event and Lisa Jacob and Annette Salmeen earned berths on the Olympic relay team.

Jessica Foschi, the 15-year-old who tested positive for steroids at the Summer Nationals, made her first competitive appearance of the trials in the 200-meter freestyle, but did not make the final. She finished 14th in the preliminary heats and won the consolation final.

Nall swam in the final event of the evening and finished at 1: 10.66, more than two seconds behind Beard, whose tender years and bubbly personality drew comparisons with a 15-year-old Nall at the 1992 trials. Now, Nall is trying to recapture that sense of excitement, and she was all smiles after her fourth-place finish.

"I'm really happy with the way I swam tonight," she said. "It was the fastest that I've gone in a while. Last year, I don't think I was in the top 100 in the world."

Stephens agreed. He was the one who suggested that Nall go to Colorado Springs to work with breaststroke coach Josef Nagy, and he felt that the 3 1/2 weeks of intense training paid off.

"If I had it to do over again, I'd have had her do it for six weeks," Stephens said. "I think she's been trying to build confidence, but when you haven't had any reinforcement in two or three years, it's hard to know. We haven't had any confirmation."

Until yesterday. Nall finished second to Quance in the preliminary with a late charge that left room to wonder if she can shave an additional second or two off her seed time in the 200 meters. If she does, she would be right there with the qualifying times of the four swimmers ranked ahead of her in that event.

"This is the fastest she has swam since 1993," Stephens said. ". . . She's feeling pretty good about being a swimmer again."

Still, Nall was noncommittal about her future. She said on Tuesday that she probably would retire from competitive swimming if she did not do well in the trials, but yesterday she would not say what exactly that means. She stopped short of saying that she must make the Olympic team to continue her career.

"That's a tough one," she said. "I was thinking in the locker room how much I enjoy racing and being a part of this, but I don't know if I'll be willing to do what it takes to get back to No. 1. Part of me wants to go on. It's something I'll feel."

If Nall is trying to push her way back into the national spotlight, Foschi is doing her best to steer clear of the unwanted attention that has focused on her since the steroid controversy erupted in August. She spoke only through meet officials after ranking 14th in the preliminary heats of the women's 200-meter freestyle.

"I was a little nervous and I went out a little fast," said Foschi, who is competing for the second time since U.S. Swimming's Board of Directors voted to reduce her two-year ban to probation because of mounting evidence that she may have been the victim of competitive sabotage. "I tried to think about the race, but I couldn't help thinking about all the people here. I feel very small in a large group."

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