Catherine Capriles lives in Mountain View, Calif., about 10 minutes away from Stanford University. Missy Herndon is from Lenexa, Kan., a Kansas City suburb about 20 minutes from the University of Kansas.
So how come they're freshman swimmers at UCLA, when there are perfectly respectable programs at schools near their homes?
For one thing, UCLA Coach Tom Jahn is in his fifth year of producing winners. He talked the pair into swimming with a group of freshmen that, he says, is his best ever.
For another, Herndon says, "I wanted to get away from home and away from Kansas and cold water, which is something I definitely don't miss."
A third reason: Although Capriles wanted to swim for the Cardinal and was a good student in high school, with a 3.3 grade-point average, she couldn't meet Stanford's exacting admissions standards.
She and Herndon, however, are doing well in their UCLA classes--and are in a class by themselves among college freshman swimmers.
Capriles and her buddy from Kansas have already qualified for the NCAA meet. The California native has made it in four individual events--two backstroke and two individual medley races--and the 400-meter medley relay. Herndon has qualified in three freestyle events and the 400 free relay and has set UCLA records for the 1,000 free (9:53.64) and the 1,650 free (16:23.38).
Although Herndon and Capriles have made a big splash in their first college season, they are not Coach Jahn's only stars.
Seven All-Americans have returned from a squad that finished sixth in the nation last year. They have helped the Bruins to an 8-3 overall record and 3-2 in the first year of Pac-10 Conference competition for women.
The All-Americans, who will lead the Bruins into Pac-10 championships Friday through Sunday at East Los Angeles College, include seniors Vicky Davidson in the 800 free relay and Kelley Wely in the 200 medley relay, sophomore diver Karla Goltman, and sophomore Micki Ward in the 400 medley and 200 medley relay.
The other three, all sophomores, are Jenny Susser (200 medley, 200 and 400 free relays), Kathy Long (400 and 800 free relays, 400 medley) and Tami Ellis (200 free relay).
Capriles and Herndon are also not the only Bruins who have qualified for the NCAAs. Freshman Susan Potrepka has made it in the 200 backstroke, and another freshman, Rhonda Von Soosten, in the 50 free. With Capriles on the qualifying 400 medley relay team are Ward, Susser and sophomore Jean Badding. With Herndon on the NCAA-bound 400 free relay squad are Von Soosten, Susser and Davidson.
A formidable entry, but Jahn has no illusions about his team's chances of beating Stanford, which finished third in last year's NCAAs, in the Pac-10 meet.
The Cardinal, he said, "is quite a bit ahead of the other Pac-10 schools." And he thinks the Bruins will face a tough fight for second in the conference championships against Cal and Arizona, which both had 2-2-1 records in Pac-10 dual meets, and USC, which finished 2-3.
"It would be a real upset if any of those four schools beat Stanford for the championship," Jahn said, but there isn't much of a drop-off from the Bruins, who finished second in conference dual-meet competition, to the Trojans, who came in fifth.
Jahn pointed out that although UCLA defeated USC, 145-123, the meet came down to the 400 medley relay before it was settled. And it wasn't settled by much. The Bruins won the relay in 3:51.05 to USC's 3:51.06--an edge of one-hundredth of a second.
If there is a large gap between Stanford and the rest of the Pac-10, Jahn said, there may be an even larger gap between Texas, winner of the last three NCAA championships, and the rest of the country.
Florida and Stanford are both strong, he said, but the Lady Longhorns, who defeated the Bruins by 85 points this year, are dominant.
Still, the Pac-10 may be the nation's dominant conference. In the last poll of the College Swimming Coaches Assn., Stanford was ranked second in the nation, USC fifth, UCLA seventh, Cal eighth and Arizona State 10th.
The strength of the conference also has shown in the last two NCAA meets. Stanford, which won the NCAA title in 1983, was third in 1985 and 1986. Cal finished fourth the last two years. UCLA was sixth last year and eighth the year before. USC was 20th in 1986 and sixth in '85. Arizona State was 18th last year and 21st in '85.
Stanford is led by Jenna Johnson and Susan Rapp, who won medals in the 1984 Olympics.
Johnson, from La Habra, was a gold medalist with the U.S. 400 free and 400 medley relay teams and took a silver in the 100 butterfly. She holds the American record in the 100 free, is a member of two relay teams with American records and has qualified for the NCAAs in four individual events and three relays.
Rapp captured her silver in the 200 breaststroke, was the NCAA champion last year in the 200 individual medley and has qualified for nationals in three events.