Fifteen-year-old Janet Evans knocked two seconds off the world record in the women's 800-meter freestyle at the U.S. Long Course National Swimming Championships Monday, shattering a mark that had lasted nearly a decade.
Evans flew to the finish with a final lap of 1:01.76 to finish at 8:22.44.
That time obliterated the world 800-meter mark of 8:24.62 set by Tracey Wickham of Australia in 1978 and the American record of 8:24.70 set by Kim Linehan of Longhorn Athletic Club in 1979.
Evans, who will be only a junior at El Dorado High School in Placentia, Calif., next fall, beat her previous best time by more than 10 seconds. The 5-foot-3, 90-pound Evans was ranked ninth in the world in the 800 meters in 1986 but set a blistering pace Monday and finished at least 10 meters ahead of her nearest competitor.
Opportunities to compete in the Pan Pacific or Pan American games next month was the goal of most swimmers as the championships opened.
At stake in the five-day meet will be the U.S. Swimming team national championships in men, women and combined categories.
The meet will serve as a key indicator of who will represent the United States in the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea. The meet is being held at the Clovis Swim Center, site of the 1983 Long Course Nationals in which four world records and two American marks were set.
Among the scheduled competitors this week are 21-year-old Matt Biondi, a Moraga, Calif., native who holds world records in the 50- and 100-meter freestyle and American marks in the 200-meter freestyle and 50-, 100- and 200-yard freestyle.
Tom Jager, 22, of Collinsville, Ill., who won the gold medal in the 50-meter freestyle at last year's World Championships in Madrid, is expected to battle Biondi in the freestyle sprints.
"It's a healthy competition," Biondi said Monday about his continuing rivalry with Jager. "I have to be at my best to beat him and I'm sure he feels the same way. Every time we've ever raced, it's been decided from the flags on in."
In the men's butterfly, 100-meter record-holder Pablo Morales is the top entry, with Biondi also a favorite.
Top women competing include Betsy Mitchell, 21, of Maretta, Ohio, who holds the world record in the 200-meter backstroke, and Mary Wayte, a 1984 Olympic team member whose best event is the 200-meter freestyle. Not competing this year is Mary Meagher, world record-holder in the 100- and 200-meter butterfly. Meagher decided to take the summer off from competition.
The top two finishers in each event will qualify for the Pan Pacific Games Aug. 13-16 in Brisbane, Australia. The third- and fourth-place finishers in each race qualify for the Pan American Games in Indianapolis Aug. 9-15.