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SWIMMING / JUNIOR NATIONALS MEET : St. Louis Girl Breaks Record in 400

TIMES STAFF WRITER

When Dee Brown began stroking furiously at the outset of the 400-meter freestyle Monday, it appeared that the 12-year-old from St. Louis had confused the race with the 100 freestyle.

But Brown was merely swimming the only way she knows how.

“I didn’t want anyone to catch up,” Brown said.

With her relentless sprinting style and long reach, no one came close to catching the 6-foot-3 Brown despite her unorthodox pace: a 1:01 opening 100, followed by a 1:06, a 1:07, and a 1:05.

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In winning her second National Junior Olympics West championship at the Mission Viejo International Swimming Complex, Brown broke the oldest 11-12 national age group record, Olympian Sippy Woodhead’s 1976 mark of 4:22.86.

Brown’s time of 4:19.48 was also under the 11-12 boys’ mark of 4:20.80 and it qualified her for the 1992 Olympic Trials.

“She is like a Janet Evans in a larger size,” said Don Meier, coach of the Parkway Swim Club from suburban St. Louis.

“She has the right work ethic and the right attitude. She’s probably the hardest working kid in our pool. She beats the guys consistently and she’s a tough competitor in practice and in meets.”

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Brown’s improvement has been remarkable since the last week of March, when she competed in her first National Junior Olympics West, the short course meet in Milwaukee.

“That was a real eye-opener for her,” Meier said. “She saw what was in front of her. Before that she was an age-group swimmer, but this, junior nationals, is a whole different world.”

Amy Durfee of Bend, Ore., felt the same way after setting her second National Junior Olympic record in three days.

“I remember my first juniors (National Junior Olympics) and I thought, ‘My gosh, these girls are so fast,’ ” Durfee said.

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“It doesn’t seem like it’s happening to me that I can be getting my name in the national swimming records.”

Durfee’s 1:12.66 in the 100 breaststroke broke the 1985 mark of 1:13.55 held by Brooke Hanley. Durfee, 14, who set the National Junior Olympic 200 breaststroke record Saturday, also qualified for the Olympic Trials.

The other record-setter Monday was 100 backstroker P.J. Wiseman of Swim Omaha. With a 58.75 in the preliminaries and a 58.36 in the finals, Wiseman broke Andy Kurtz’s National Junior Olympic West record of 58.76 twice.

Buena’s Ben Swartout became the third Southland swimmer to win a National Junior Olympic title. Swartout, 17, swam a 4:02.06 to beat Robert Rojas of the Mission Viejo Nadadores in the men’s 400 freestyle.

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Rachel Joseph, 14, of Eugene City, Ore., won the women’s 100 backstroke in 1:05.27, two days’ after finishing first in the 200 backstroke.


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