She began her athletic career at age 4 and was ready to retire after 12 years of competition.
Shauna MacEwen of Westlake Village was tired of rising before the sun to swim endleme ss laps without a ray of hope. She would swim an average of 15,000 to 18,000 yards a day and never felt like she was reaching her goal--a faster time.
"I was stuck at the same plateau for two years," MacEwen said. "I would repeat the same times over and over again and never get better."
One day, MacEwen told her coach that she had swam her last lap. Her career appeared washed up at 16.
Enter Ingrid Daland, coach of the Daland United Swim Team in Thousand Oaks who has also worked endless hours--molding, training and restoring the confidence of young swimmers. Daland wasn't going to let this prized pupil drift away.
"Ingrid always knew what to say," said MacEwen, now 17 and entering her senior year at Westlake High. "She got me through my worst period of frustration and kept me motivated."
In an 18-month period, MacEwen became a bigger and stronger swimmer and went from an also-ran to a front runner entered in the most prestigious meet on the swimming calendar. MacEwen will be competing along with Olympic gold medalists Matt Biondi, Tom Jager and Janet Evans in the U. S. Swimming Long Course Nationals, beginning July 31 at USC.
It's the most important long course meet held in the United States and the deciding factor in selecting a team for the Pan Pacific Championships, which will be held in Tokyo, Aug. 17-20.
In her first appearance, MacEwen will be entered in the 800 freestyle after qualifying with a time of 8:54.32. She bettered the standard of 8:56 two weekends ago in the L. A. Invitational at USC, the final qualifying meet for nationals.
"I'm really excited to finally make it to nationals," MacEwen said. "I've been trying to break nine minutes all season. It's been very frustrating."
MacEwen is weary of setting her goals too high since she'll be competing against the world's best in a metric pool.
"My goal is to swim my qualifying time again," she said. "Swimming in a metric pool takes more endurance because there are fewer turns where you can relax."
MacEwen's career took several turns for the better when she competed in a smaller pool--one measured in yards--at the Southern Section 4-A championships at Belmont Plaza in Long Beach. MacEwen placed third in the 500-yard freestyle and fifth in the 200-yard freestyle.
More important than her place in the races were her final times. She swam a 4:54 in the 500 and a 1:51 in the 200. Both times were personal bests.
At the L. A. Invitational, MacEwen got her first chance to compete against a nationally known swimmer--three-time Olympic gold medalist Janet Evans--in the finals of the 800.
"It was really exciting to be in the same race with her," MacEwen said. "I was in lane four and she was in the middle, lane six. I've never had been so excited about a race before. I think the level of competition has helped make me become a better swimmer."
MacEwen finished a distant second to Evans, but she was pleased with her performance.
Her success story will need one more night.
Indestructible: His coaches, parents and most everyone in the Cal State Northridge gym thought standout Eric Thomas of Rio Mesa High had suffered broken bones in his left hand after taking a tumble during the Future Stars Showdown tournament last week.
Thomas, who plays for the ARC Mid-Valley team, was undercut by a defender after driving for a layup. He bent back his fingers on his left hand while trying to break his fall.
"There wasn't any doubt in the gym that Eric had broken bones," said Ben Thomas, Eric's father. "He turned white and it looked like bone was sticking out."
Thomas was rushed to the emergency ward at Pleasant Valley Hospital in Camarillo where doctors informed him that he only split the skin on the palm of his hand.
Thomas had six stitches to close the cut and has returned to play with his team in Las Vegas after missing only four days of competition.
"It gave us a good scare," Ben Thomas said.
Doubting Thomas: An assistant basketball coach from the Naval Academy came to scout Thomas and left believing he would never be able to play again.
"He called the next day and was surprised to hear Eric wasn't seriously hurt," Ben Thomas said.