National Short-Course Swimming Championships : Johnson Wins 50 Freestyle; Torres Disqualified

Times Staff Writer

Dara Torres jumped the beep (guns are a thing of the past) on the start of the 50-yard freestyle Friday night in the National Short-Course Swimming Championships at East Los Angeles College and was disqualified, leaving an empty center lane next to Jenna Johnson, who won the title in 22.99 seconds.

It was the second time in this meet that a much-anticipated showdown between Johnson and Torres had been spoiled by a disqualification.

Johnson was charged with a false start in a preliminary heat for the 100-yard freestyle Wednesday.

“I was disappointed that that happened to her tonight,” Johnson said. “I wanted to swim against her. . . . It was just so ironic after what happened to me on the first night.”


And, of course, an empty lane doesn’t do much for motivation.

Johnson, of Industry Hills, and Torres, of Mission Viejo, did go head-to-head on the first leg of the women’s 400-yard freestyle relay, with Torres touching a half-second ahead of Johnson, who had about 20 minutes between swims.

In the men’s 50-yard freestyle, Tom Jager of UCLA beat Matt Biondi of Cal, 19.58 seconds to 20-flat, repeating the 1-2 finish of the NCAA meet.

Jager, who set a meet record, said it was great to have the pressure of Biondi in the next lane. “You can only make yourself go so fast--I think it’s great what he’s doing in the sprints.

“He looks great in both the 100 and the 200. I just hope I can hang on to the 50.”

Jager set the American 50-yard record of 19.24 last week in the NCAA meet at Austin, Tex.

Michelle Griglione, who had won the 400-yard individual medley the night before, won the 200-yard individual medley Friday night. Griglione, 15, again finished ahead of Erika Hansen, also 15, but this time she won by almost three seconds.

Asked if the two victories gave her a mental edge over the competition, Griglione said: “I don’t have the slightest idea--but it does a lot for my enthusiasm going back into training. It makes me want to work really hard, because I know they will.”


How her success in this indoor meet will translate into success in the summer outdoor meets is also left to speculation. Griglione said: “They always say, ‘Yards is nice, but meters is what really counts.’ Hopefully it’s a sign that I’ll do well in meters, too.”

Pablo Morales, who gained an Olympic silver medal in the 200-meter individual medley last summer and won the 200-yard individual medley in the NCAA meet last week, had no trouble winning that event again Friday night.

Morales, 20, a sophomore at Stanford, suddenly finds himself in the position of veteran and incumbent. Now that talents like Bill Barrett and Steve Lundquist have retired, Morales is racing 17- and 18-year olds.

Doug Gjertsen, 17, was second, and Paul Wallace, 18, was third.


“You can never get complacent,” Morales said. “There is a real good young crop of guys who will be moving up very soon.”

Mike O’Brien and Tiffany Cohen, both of Mission Viejo, won the 500-yard freestyle events. Both had set American records in the 1,000-yard races on the first night of the meet.

O’Brien won in 4:16.56, Cohen in 4:39.63.

Mission Viejo’s women won the 400-yard freestyle relay, ahead of Holmes Lumber, and lead the team competition, 439-156, also over Holmes Lumber.


The Golden Bear Swim Club won the men’s 400-yard freestyle relay (with Biondi swimming the anchor leg). But the Golden Bears are a distant third in the men’s competition. Holmes Lumber leads, 300-269, over Mission Viejo.

Swimming Notes At 5:30 p.m. today, just before the final session of this meet begins, 13 swimmers will receive Olympic gold medals. A rule change by the International Olympic Committee allowed those members of the Olympic team that swam in the morning heats to receive medals for the places of the teams in the finals. The United States won all five relays in the Olympics. Receiving medals will be Geoff Gaberino and Rich Saeger for the 800-meter freestyle relay; Robin Leamy and Tom Jager for the 400-meter freestyle relay; Dave Wilson, Rich Schroeder, Mike Heath and Jager for the men’s 400-meter medley relay; Jill Sterkel and Mary Wayte for the women’s 400-meter freestyle relay, and Betsy Mitchell, Susan Rapp, Jenna Johnson and Carrie Steinseifer for the women’s 400-meter medley relay. . . . Sterkel is now an assistant swim coach at the University of Texas. She also is on the U.S. women’s water polo team and is flying in today from Las Vegas, where she is conducting a water polo exhibition. . . . The top five men and the top five women in total points at this meet will be sent to the Monaco Invitational.