When Janet Evans, one of the world's foremost female swimmers, emerged from her first morning of classes at El Dorado High School on Wednesday, she was immediately surrounded by a crush of reporters.
They had been waiting for her since 7:30 a.m. And her classmate, Shane Borowski, didn't like it one bit.
"We all feel sorry for her," he said, as a television crew followed Janet through the Placentia high school's senior quad. "I mean, look at that."
It was a sentiment that the self-effacing winner of three Olympic gold medals for swimming seemed to share, despite her gracious replies to reporters' trite questions.
Since the 17-year-old returned from Seoul on Monday, she has been so beset by reporters and fans that she has hardly had time to eat or sleep, her friends said. All that attention has left her school mates feeling ambivalent about her new-found fame.
It's not that they aren't proud of Janet.
"Everywhere I go now, I tell people, 'I know her. She goes to my school,' " 17-year-old Shane said, after criticizing the reporters who showed up to record Janet's first day back at school. "It kind of put our school on the map."
But his 16-year-old friend, Tyler Briggs, said protectively: "It's getting out of hand. . . . It was good for a while, but it gets old."
One man who showed no signs of media fatigue Wednesday was Paul Preston, the school's director of activities. Preston, who has given more than a score of interviews since Janet won her third gold medal, spoke glowingly of her "wholesome appeal," especially after other Olympic athletes had been disqualified for using banned drugs.
Preston was so excited when he found out at 5 a.m. Sunday that she had won her third gold medal that he rushed out to announce it on the school's marquee.
But, he said, no one was prepared for what would follow.
"It's been overwhelming for the kids," he said. "It has kind of caught the school off guard."
Certainly by lunchtime, all the attention appeared to have overwhelmed Janet. Friends said she had been unable to eat breakfast because of the reporters who showed up at her front door, clamoring for interviews. Yet when she arrived at school to find another phalanx of reporters waiting at the entrance, she smiled like a good sport. Then, she went to her honors English class, where the first few minutes were recorded for posterity.
But by noon, according to 17-year-old Niccole Lopiccolo, Janet was beginning to dread the attention.
Niccole, who shares Janet's last class before lunch, turned a grim eye on the television crew. "As soon as all the media came around, she put her head down on the (desk) and said, 'Aw, shoot.' "
A few feet away, Janet was telling reporters that yes, she was behind in her schoolwork and yes, she was glad to be back.
"I think a lot of the kids are shy right now because of this," Evans said before edging off to sit down with a few friends, who were munching their sandwiches in uncomfortable silence.
A photographer stood on a nearby ledge, snapping pictures of the scene. Evans, who ate nothing, stared at the concrete, looking dangerously close to tears.
After a few minutes, Ivan, the campus security guard--also known by the kids as "Rambo"--came to her rescue and waved the intruder on.
"Yay! Ivan!" her classmates cheered, clapping and hooting, as the photographer slunk away.
The momentary victory put Shane in a philosophical mood.
"It'll all be over soon," he said, looking off in the distance. "She'll be on the cover of Wheaties next. And next Olympics, she'll be a commentator."