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Larsen Splashes Way From Texas to Japan : Swimming: Third-place finish in 1,500-meter freestyle race earns her a spot on United States national team.

July 31, 1993|THERESA SMITH MUNOZ | TIMES STAFF WRITER

AUSTIN, Tex. — From Houston in Texas to Kobe in Japan, it is 6,893 miles by air. For Alexis Larsen, it was 1,500 freestyle meters.

For more than 16 minutes in the U.S. National Championships, Larsen stroked through the water, kicking mightily, intent on earning her first berth on a national team from the United States.

Team officials were inquiring about her passport shortly after she finished in 16 minutes 28.48 seconds, an eight-second improvement, good for a third-place finish behind Janet Evans and Trina Jackson. Tobie Smith, the fourth-place swimmer, missed the trip to Japan by 7.5 seconds.

Larsen, 16, of Calabasas-based CLASS Aquatics, built the gap on Smith in the first part of the race.

"Actually, she went out a little too fast," CLASS Coach Bud McAllister said. "But she's like that. She gets revved up. She said she felt great and she thought she could hold on to it."

Larsen's nerves got the best of her.

"I kept telling myself, 'Keep going. Don't mess up. Don't die.' I was tired at the end, but so excited to be going to Japan."

*

In only her second national championship race, Sarah Nichols of Conejo-Simi Aquatics posted a championship-field finish--eighth-place in the 1,500 freestyle. Nichols, 16, of Camarillo, covered the longest distance in swimming in 16:47.88, an improvement of 18 seconds over her previous best.

"It feels great," Nichols said.

*

Northridge's Kristine Quance, the defending national champion in the 200 individual medley, swam miserably in the morning preliminaries and did not qualify for the eight-woman field for the championship final.

She would have been seeded first in the consolation final by more than a second, but she scratched, ending a disastrous national championships.

Quance also did not make the final in the 100 breaststroke, an event she won last year, and finished second in the 400 individual medley and 200 breaststroke by decisive margins.

"She just feels bad in the water," CLASS Aquatics Coach Bud McAllister said. "I'm not sure what it is. Maybe she has a low-grade fever. I hope she swims better in Japan. I've been reminding her that she was sick prior to the 1991 Pan Pacific meet when she swam her fastest time."

Quance will see a national team doctor in Austin today, but said she doubts she is ill.

And although she still sleeps two hours every afternoon since contracting mononucleosis 18 months ago, she said she does not believe she has suffered a relapse.

Although Quance was determined to pull out of her meet-long tailspin, she said her poor performance Friday was not the result of a loss of confidence.

"It wasn't mental," she said. "It was all physical. I was really tired."

Quance said she believes her 10-day taper, a dramatic reduction in meterage prior to major competition, was too short.

"Maybe the rest before the Pan Pacific meet will do me good," she said.

*

Jason Stelle of Agoura swam a 56.53 on the backstroke leg of the Trojan Swim Club's third-place 400 medley relay team.

The Buenaventura relay team of Ben Swartout, Ryan Duncan, Chris Pelant and Mike Carroll placed 28th.

Cal State Northridge freshman Heather Ballard finished 19th in the 1,500 freestyle in 17:06.55.

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