U.S. Swimming Open : Mitchell Backs In to American Record in 100-Meter Event

Times Staff Writer

For the second day in a row, Betsy Mitchell of the University of Texas set an American record in her morning preliminary race at the Texas Swim Center. But Saturday night, she came back in the finals of the U.S. Swimming Open to better that record with the fastest time in the world this year as she beat two East Germans in the 100-meter backstroke.

Mitchell’s time of 1:01.79 bettered the American record of 1:02.24 she had set in the morning. Also, leading off the women’s 400-meter medley relay for the U.S. team, Mitchell swam the 100-meter backstroke in 1:02.23--her third time of the day under the previous American record of 1:02.48, held since 1982 by Sue Walsh of North Carolina.

On Friday, Mitchell had set the American record in the 200-meter backstroke, which is not her best event.


Saturday night she said: “I woke up this morning and thought, ‘Today’s the day. This is when you’re supposed to do all those wonderful things.’

“My fault in the past has been to reserve something to be sure that I wouldn’t die at the end. This time, I knew I could go for it right from the gun.”

After her morning swim, she had said: “The mental barriers fell yesterday, so now I don’t think that this new time is as fast as I can go.”

She was excited about the records, of course, but she said: “It’s kind of a double-edged sword. As much as I’ve always wanted to swim for the U.S. team, I really would have been happy to set these records with a Texas cap on.”

At least she gets a yellow rose (of Texas) along with every gold medal she wins here.

“My roommate for this meet is Mary T. (Meagher), and we’re trying to collect an even dozen,” she said.

They have five between them after two days of this three-day meet.

Meagher had no trouble beating Kornelia Gressler of East Germany in the 100-meter butterfly. Her time of 59.89 was almost two seconds away from her world record but not bad for this time of year.


Dirk Richter of East Germany, who beat world record-holder and Olympic gold medalist Rick Carey in the 200-meter backstroke Friday night came back to beat Carey again Saturday night in the 100-meter backstroke. Carey was third in the 100 behind Mark Tewksbury of Canada.

Richter claimed to be much more concerned about Tewksbury. “I was not thinking about Rick Carey at all,” he said.

It’s quite a turnabout to have an East German man and an American woman winning the backstroke events. But Richter said: “The East German women still are the best, and they will come through at the end of the year.”

By that he means at the world championships this summer in Madrid. Right now, the East German team is looking forward to the European Cup next week.

Cornelia Sirch of East Germany, who is ranked fourth in the world in the 400-meter individual medley, placed third Saturday night in that event behind Michelle Griglione and Patty Sabo, both of the United States.

Craig Oppel, a freshman at UCLA, won the men’s 200-meter freestyle, beating Olympic silver medalist Mike Heath of the University of Florida.


Oppel said that he was not surprised he won the event this time around at this meet. “I was fourth three years ago, third two years ago, second last year, so it figured that I would win it this time,” he said.

Oppel also swam the butterfly leg of UCLA’s 400-meter medley relay, which set a pool record with a time of 3:44.88.

UCLA beat the U.S. team in that relay, with Tom Jager swimming the backstroke leg against Andy Gill; Giovanni Minervini swimming the breaststroke leg against John Moffett; Oppel swimming against Matt Biondi, and John Sauerland swimming against Scott McCadam.

At the end of the second day of competition, the University of Florida retained its lead in the men’s collegiate division over UCLA. The University of Florida women led their collegiate division, and Mission Viejo continued to lead both club divisions.