After a week of victories, records, medals, cheering fans, autograph-seekers, press conferences, TV interviews and dozens of roses, Janet Evans was glad it was over.
Oh, sure, it was fun. But she was tired. Especially after setting the world record in the 1,500-meter freestyle Friday night at the Phillips 66/U.S. Swimming Long Course National Championships in Clovis, Calif.
Asked, predictably, for a comment on her second world record of the week, she looked up at the horde of reporters and the three camera crews packed into a trailer behind the pool and said, quietly: “I worked hard for it. . . . I’m glad it’s all over with. It’s been a really long week.”
And today she flies with the U.S. team to the Pan Pacific Games in Brisbane, Australia.
She will get a rest between the Pan Pacific Games and Sept. 9, when she gets back to school at El Dorado High School in Placentia. That means she’ll get her 16th birthday off, Aug. 28. With the start of school, she’ll start training for the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul.
Her coach at the Fullerton Aquatics Swim Team, Bud McAllister, is not concerned that she’ll burn out after accomplishing so much before turning 16. He likes her attitude, her work ethic, her consistency . . . and he’s not having her train at a punishing pace. American swimmers a few years ago were swimming 25,000 meters a day. Evans goes about 13,000 concentrating on intensity instead of distance.
McAllister says she is as consistent in workouts as she is in races.
In setting the world record in the 1,500, Evans swam the first 100 in 1 minute 1.6 seconds. She then settled into a pace of about 1:04 every 100 meters. She slowed ever so slightly in the middle, with a couple of splits nearing 1:05, but then she got right back on pace and finished with a 100 under 1:04.
McAllister had set her up for a pace that would put her under 16 minutes, knowing that if she faltered, as she did a little bit in the middle, she’d still get the world record. Her record time was 16:00.73.
Evans had been saying all week that the 1,500 was her best event. But she clarified that as she tried to tell people who had worked up a sweat just logging her splits for that ever-intense 16 minutes: “It’s my best event, not my favorite. Swimming a mile really hurts.”
Well, everyone else at the Clovis West High School complex enjoyed it. And, flashing a big smile, Evans said, “It was exhilarating. Also really, really tiring. But, yes, exhilarating.”
Evans had set the world record in the 800-meter freestyle on the first night of the meet. And she also won the 400-meter freestyle and the 400-meter individual medley.
She is the first swimmer since Tracy Caulkins in 1981 to win four events in the long course national meet. That’s not the first thing she has done to draw a comparison to Caulkins, and it won’t be the last.
U.S. Swimming needs a young, versatile swimmer like Evans to build around. Evans not only has the athletic potential to be what Caulkins was to American swimming, she also has the easy, candid, sweet disposition to win hearts the way Caulkins did.
Richard Quick, the women’s swim coach at the University of Texas and the national team coach through the 1988 Olympics, didn’t have to be asked twice what he liked most about the qualifying meet: “I’d say Janet Evans is the most exciting thing. She’s new in new events for us. She’s what we’ve been looking for.”
In summarizing the state of U.S. swimming going into the Olympic year, Quick said: “In women’s swimming, with the emergence of some new, young swimmers, Janet Evans, in particular, along with what I know about some others, like Betsy Mitchell and Mary T. Meagher and Jenna Johnson . . . I think we are in an improving position against the East Germans.”