If ever a Division II swimmer has earned the right to wade with a bit of a swagger, it would be breaststroke specialist Tina Schnare of Cal State Northridge.
By winning the 100-yard breaststroke in a time of 1:04.83 on Thursday, Schnare became the first four-time winner of a single event in the eight-year history of the women’s portion of the NCAA Division II national finals.
“I was relieved, " said Schnare, who made an animated swipe at the sweat over her brow at the conclusion of the race.
A mediocre third leg Thursday kept Schnare from bettering her Division II record of 1:04.76, set as a freshman in 1986.
“She was a little slow on that third leg, but she killed them on that last lap,” CSUN Coach Pete Accardy said. Colleen Criscillo of Army was a distant second in 1:06.13.
Three years after an auspicious national debut in which she shattered two individual records and contributed to a pair of record-setting relay teams, Schnare is only slightly less awed by her competition.
“I worry about everything,” she said between chomps on her glossy pink fingernails before Thursday night’s race. “It’s hard when you’re the one everyone else is trying to beat.”
Schnare has won more first-place medals than any Division II women’s swimmer in history, mixing six relay championships with seven individual titles.
Ann Marie Wycoff, an Army senior who already has won the 200-yard individual medley and 200-yard butterfly in this meet, has matched Schnare’s individual total. Wycoff has never been on a winning relay team, however.
“You would think,” Accardy said, “that with all Tina has accomplished, with what she’s won, she’d be acting like she owns these races by now. But that’s not her. She still lacks confidence. Emotionally, she’s a yo-yo.”
Question Schnare about a future race and her response inevitably begins with the phrase, “I hope . . . .”
Swagger? Schnare doesn’t even talk a boastful game.
She said she wasn’t aware she had become the first woman to post four consecutive victories. “Really? That’s nice,” she said when informed.
It is not false modesty; Schnare is truly shy. Perhaps part of her reluctance to brag stems from having little to brag about before coming to Northridge.
She was successful enough--winning three league breaststroke titles while at Mira Costa High in Manhattan Beach--but her times were not that impressive.
“I never imagined winning nationals even once,” Schnare said. “I used to go to junior national meets at AAU and I was nothing there.”
Before joining CSUN’s team, Schnare had never bettered 1:07 in the 100-yard breaststroke. Before her first Division II championship meet, she had improved to just 1:06.4.
Accardy recalls spending much of Schnare’s first season trying to convince her that she had talent.
“I told her she had the potential to go 1:05,” Accardy said.
Her response? “I said, ‘Uh-uh, no way,’ ” Schnare recalled.
Technically, Accardy admits, she was right. She did even better.
“She also told me that she wasn’t a good finals swimmer,” Accardy said. “I said, ‘Baloney. There’s no reason for that. I don’t even want to hear it.’ ”
Of course, as she has since proven, nothing could be further from the truth.
Saturday, Schnare will try for her fourth consecutive championship in the 200-yard breaststroke. Again, she will be chasing a mark--2:19.78--she holds, which is all the more for her to fret about.
“I’d really like to break that record,” Schnare said.
But even if the record doesn’t fall, and even if her winning streak does, Schnare will walk away from her last meet with few regrets.
“Four years is a long time,” Schnare said. “I think I’m ready to quit, even though it’s been fun.”
But she will miss the people, Schnare said, especially Accardy, who offered her a tuition scholarship without ever seeing her swim.
“I owe a lot to Pete,” Schnare said. “He taught me a lot. I’m a better person because of some of the things I’ve learned.”
“Well,” Schnare said softly, “I’m not as shy . . . and I have a lot more confidence.”