Holding a swimming meet of champions right now is like having a body surfing championship in the Antarctic.
The scheduling of the Meet of Champions at Mission Viejo is such that many of the competitors are weary when they arrive here.
In the meet's highlight Saturday, Matt Biondi beat Tom Jager, formerly of UCLA, in the 50-meter freestyle. Surpassing his time in Friday night's heat, Biondi swam in 23.52 seconds to edge Jager's 23.61.
Both swimmers bettered Biondi's winning time of 23.63 last year. In its own way, that was an achievement for this meet, as swimmers are exhausted from long training.
In a mad dash won in split seconds, neither swimmer really threatened the meet record of 23.39. Both, however, had easily beaten it when they were in top form. Biondi's 22.33 is a world record.
"I was still very tired," Biondi said. "I didn't have any speed and my arms felt heavy. It's like going uphill, but when you're (rested) it's like coasting downhill."
Janet Evans, 15, of Placentia, won the 400-meter freestyle in 4:15.68, easily leaving behind runner-up Tami Bruce, who arrived at the finish line almost four seconds later, clocking 4:19.23.
Evans then won the 200-meter backstroke in 2:20.56. Indian Valley's Susannah Miller was second at 2:21.14. Neither swimmer approached a meet record.
"I just got out of school Wednesday and it's like I haven't got a break yet," Evans said. "No time at all to sit around."
On Friday Evans had swum both the heat and the final of two events, and the 800-meter freestyle. Today she is scheduled to swim the 200-meter individual medley and 200-meter freestyle.
The races are only part of what has drained the majority of the swimmers here. Most of them are from university and high school clubs and have just undergone the ordeal of final exams. Some have had to travel great distances, like those from the Canadian Calgary club. Most swimmers had adjusted their training so as to peak for earlier championship races in high school or in the NCAA. And the meet has been considered a tuneup meet.
The coaches say their summer has been shortened. The U.S. National Longcourse Championships are being held at Clovis, Calif., July 27-31, much earlier than usual.
Swimmers who might once have had some rest are going into this meet completely unrested. Terry Stoddard, the Mission Viejo Nadadore coach, says that's one reason meet records aren't falling this year the way they did in 1986.
"Nationals are normally held in August. This year they're being held in July to allow time for the Pan-Am and Pan Pacific games in August," agreed FAST coach Bud McAllister. "So swimmers are losing a lot of their time."
The Meet of Champions winds up today with Biondi meeting Jager again in the 100-meter freestyle. Preliminary heats begin at 9:30 a.m. and finals follow at 5 p.m.