At back of pack, Navy's White stands tall

Ensign's next assignment will be defending country

Trials notebook


July 11, 2004|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

LONG BEACH, Calif. - There was sound and fury at the front of the pack in the men's 100-meter freestyle yesterday at the U.S. Olympic swimming trials.

At the back, there was Ensign Noah White, an overachiever from a San Diego suburb and the U.S. Naval Academy who is serving his country, not himself.

Jason Lezak set an American record of 48.17 in the semifinals. Gary Hall Jr. is trying to become the American male swimmer with the most Olympic medals ever. Citing Lezak's lack of an international pedigree, Hall won't acknowledge him as a rival.

A member of Hall's camp likened Lezak's challenge to Spud Webb kicking Michael Jordan in the shins. Before last night's semifinals, Lezak said, "I don't know why they want to [tick] me off."

Hall, meanwhile, turned his tongue northward to the U.S. Olympic track and field trials, as he described sprinter Marion Jones as a cheat and a thief.

Lezak and Hall will continue their sparring in tonight's final. In yesterday morning's preliminaries, White had the 34th-best time in a 35-man field, but he stood proud and tall.

The 6-foot-6 White received no swimming scholarship offers after high school, and he didn't care, because he had an appointment to Annapolis. He was a breaststroker in high school and didn't become a sprint freestyler until he moved east.

This past winter, White became the first Patriot League swimmer to compete in five events at the NCAA championships. He also will swim the 50 freestyle here, and Tuesday's preliminaries might be his last race for a while.

In May, White was commissioned in the Class of 2004. Because of the trials, he has been on temporary assignment in Annapolis, working in the athletic department and "setting up stuff for plebe summer." He'll be stationed at a San Diego base until November, when he'll enter Nuclear Power School in Charleston, S.C.

White was at M&T Bank Stadium on Memorial Day, cheering on the Navy men's lacrosse team in the NCAA final. He also keeps up with older mates who are already working in harm's way.

"The world situation puts a feel of gravity on what we do," White said. "There are a lot of guys from '02 who are getting shot up in Iraq. Everyone graduating could be going into the field, but that's what everyone is prepared to do."

Phelps family affair

Suite G at the Charter All Digital Aquatic Centre includes six fans who also followed Michael Phelps to the 2003 world championships in Barcelona, Spain. His sister, Hilary, and mother, Debbie, are again joined by Debbie's brother, B.J. Davisson, his wife, a cousin and Gerry Brewster, a former state office-holder who taught Phelps at Towson High.

Phelps' other sister, Whitney, has joined the group. His father, Fred, arrived at the meet yesterday.

Two days before he traveled here, Phelps had a quiet 19th birthday celebration with his mother, father and sister Hilary.

In April, Phelps received an Indiana Pacers jersey from Larry Bird. The women in his life got it autographed by the Pacers' Reggie Miller and Jermaine O'Neal, and hung in a shadow box.

Phelps wants an English bulldog. Until he can care for the real thing in the fall, his father got him a cast model.

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