INDIANAPOLIS — Alexis Larsen improved her time and her place in the 800-meter freestyle Thursday night in the U.S. Olympic swimming trials at the Indiana University Natatorium. Then again, since Larsen, 15, was seeded eighth in the championship field of eight, she had nowhere to go but up.
With the encouragement of nearly a dozen family members and a large poster that read: "Hold That Tiger, Go Alexis!", Larsen, of the Calabasas-based CLASS Aquatics, made a decisive surge at the 500-meter mark, overtaking two swimmers to finish sixth in 8 minutes 43.74 seconds.
Larsen's time, a career-best, was 2.3 seconds better than her preliminary swim Wednesday.
"It was a great swim, especially since a lot of those girls won't be around in four years," CLASS Coach Bud McAllister said, referring to the 1996 Olympic trials.
Larsen's best left her more than 16 seconds behind Janet Evans, who won the race in 8:27.24. But Evans and the other two top-three finishers are all older than 20.
"I wasn't expecting to come close to making the team," said Larsen, whose training was slowed by thyroid surgery last fall. "This inspires me to keep going for the next four years."
Larsen's teammate, Kristine Quance, finished 11th in the 200 individual medley, clocking 2:19.39, well off her personal best of 2:17,56.
"I was just really tired," said Quance who is competing despite a bout with mononucleosis. "I felt really weak and kind of like, not drowning, but really low in the water."
Jason Stelle, a USC freshman from Westlake Village, placed 20th in the 100 backstroke in 57.55, just off his career best of 57.40.