For the thirtieth time in her swimming career, lanky 18-year-old Tracy Caulkins cruised to a U.S. National title in seemingly effortless fashion, winning the 200-yard individual medley at Blodgett Pool last night in an incredible new American record of 1:57.11.
Caulkins--who is a clear standout in the U.S. Swimming Nationals that are being held at Harvard this week--has now won three out of three events in the American standards, tying Ann Curtis as the winningest swimmer in U.S. history.
"The crowds really pushed me on to my time," Caulkins said at a press conference after the meet. "It's kind of hard to push myself when there isn't anyone right next to me to spur me on."
Top world-ranked distance swimmers and perennial rivals Kim Linehan and Cynthia Woodhead also provided the third night of finals with a measure of excitement when they dueled each other in the women's 500-yard freestyle.
Stroking to an early lead, Linehan held off a late challenge from Woodhead--who was swimming seven lanes over--to eclipse Woodhead's own pool record of 4:43.51 and finish 4:38.80.
"I saw Sippy (Cynthia) the whole way, but I knew I just had to put my head down and hold on," Linehan said after the race.
In the men's 500 free, Cal sopomore and 400-meter world record holder Peter Szmidt came from behind the pack to edge American record holder Brian Goodell with a time of 4:21.10. Harvard swimmers sopomore Ted Chappell and senior Bobby Hackett also swam in the finals of the event, finishing fifth and sixth respectively with times of 4:24.59 and 4:24.59.
The crowd gave a special standing ovation to Hackett and Goodell at the conclusion of the race to commemorate the final race between long-standing rivals, who are both retiring from competitive swimming after today's events.
Last night also marked the debut of the 50-yard freestyles--dubbed the "Arena Sprints" in honor of their sponsor--in Nationals short course competition. In a race where quick starts and tight turns can provide the difference between winning and losing. American record holders and veteran sprinters Jill Sterkel and Robin Leamy held on to retain their nationals titles with fast clockings of 22.51 and 19.91.
UCLA junior Bill Barrett--who set the American and U.S. Open records at the NCAA championships just two weeks ago--easily captured the 200 IM with a solid, if not spectacular, time of 1:46.91.
The Mission Viejo "A" squads totally dominated the 400 free relay competition, with both the men and the women racing to new American records of 2:53.86 and 3:19.55 respectively.
Today's events include the mile, the 100-yard backstroke, breaststroke and butterfly, and the 400-yard medley relay. Look for Caulkins to set another American record in the 100-breast, and for world record holder Mary T. Meagher to lower her own national standard in the 100-fly.