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SWIMMING / U.S. NATIONALS : Olympic Disappointment Powers Namesnik


AUSTIN, Tex. — Drawing deep breaths, fatigue slowing his speech, Eric Namesnik reasoned that he wouldn't be discussing his newest American record if he had defeated world record-holder Tamas Darnyi of Hungary at the Barcelona Olympic Games last summer.

A silver medal, to Darnyi's gold, inspired Namesnik's unusual record in the 400-meter individual medley at the national championships Wednesday. It was unusual because national records are rarely set the year after the Olympics, and because it was set in the morning preliminaries.

"My goal was to go for the record--go as hard as I could and not save anything for tonight (and the finals)," Namesnik, a Michigan senior, said.

A lifetime best by six seconds in the 200 breaststroke Tuesday gave Namesnik the confidence he needed to lower his 1991 individual medley mark from 4 minutes 15.21 seconds to 4:14.50, the third-fastest time in history, behind Darnyi's world record 4:12.36 and the 4:14.23 Darnyi swam in Barcelona.

Gaining power with each stroke and with perfect rhythm, Namesnik had a time for the breaststroke portion of the medley that was 1.1 seconds faster than his breaststroke split when he set the record two years ago.

The record erased fears that Namesnik, 22, peaked in 1991.

"This swim leads me to believe I have a little more in me," he said.

In the finals, Namesnik took the lead on the breaststroke portion but came up 0.85 seconds short of another record.

In the women's 400 individual medley, Allison Wagner upset defending national champion Kristine Quance to win in 4:41.93, the fastest time in the world this year. Wagner, 15, of Florida Aquatics lowered her personal best by 7.3 seconds to become the fifth-fastest American ever in the event.

Only two weeks ago at the Janet Evans Invitational in Los Angeles, Wagner beat Quance, ended a year-old plateau by breaking 4:50 and emerged as one of the brightest young hopes for the 1996 Olympic team.

Quance, 18, of Northridge, clocked a personal best in the first half of the race, the butterfly and backstroke sequence, and led Wagner by 0.40 seconds at the start of the breaststroke. Weary-legged, Quance fell off the pace during her strongest stroke, and Wagner, who is also a breaststroker, built a 2.3-second lead heading into freestyle.

Swimming Note

In a premeet ceremony, Mary T. Meagher was presented with the Phillips 66 20th anniversary award for the greatest overall performance at a national championships. In a vote of the media, Meagher won for the world records she set at the 1981 national championships in Brown Deer, Wis., where, at 16, she clocked a 2:05.96 in the 200-meter butterfly, a time that has not been approached since. Three days later, Meagher lowered her 100 butterfly world record from 59.26 seconds to 57.93. . . . No one has broken 58.61 since.

Nicole Haislett, the Barcelona Olympic gold medalist in the 200 freestyle, won her specialty in 1:59.38, beating Jenny Thompson in the last 25 meters.

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