Jeff Rouse became only the second American ever to swim the 100-meter backstroke under 55 seconds at the U.S. Swimming Long Course National Championships Thursday.
Rouse's time of 54.79 in the preliminaries fell short of David Berkoff's world record of 54.51 set at the 1988 Olympics.
In Seoul, Berkoff set the mark in the preliminaries but finished second in the final. Rouse avoided a similar situation, winning in 55.86.
"After he did it in '88, like a lot of people, I was thinking no one was going to get close to that for a long time," Rouse said. "This morning really surprised me."
In the finals, though, Rouse was shooting for the world record.
"I thought I could get it," he said. "I knew I had to get out fast and then just finish with whatever I had left."
Janet Evans, the world record-holder in the women's 800-meter freestyle, did not struggle in winning the event Thursday. Evans' time of 8:24.32 was the fastest in the world this year and beat Erika Hansen by almost 13 seconds.