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SWIMMING / SPRING NATIONALS

Hedgepeth Takes a Step Toward Returning to Games

February 10, 1996|ELLIOTT ALMOND | TIMES STAFF WRITER

ORLANDO, Fla. — It has been seven years since Whitney Hedgepeth won a national championship, but Friday she won her seventh national title in her seventh different event at the Phillips 66 spring national championships.

"I never thought about that," Hedgepeth, 24, said after edging Barbara Bedford in the women's 100-meter backstroke with a time of 1 minute 2.36 seconds.

Hedgepeth, who also won the 200 backstroke Thursday, reflects the latest trend in swimming--longevity. A 1988 Olympian, she has joined other Olympians, among them Janet Evans, Summer Sanders and Ron Karnaugh, who have decided to prolong their careers for one more chance in Atlanta.

Hedgepeth left a job as a sixth-grade English teacher in Austin, Texas, to reenter the pool at the University of Texas, where she was a multiple NCAA champion.

"I hated it," she said of teaching. "It was like baby-sitting."

But like other members of the older generation, she has been surprised.

"Girls who were 14 when I was 20 have passed me in size," she said. "They are more womanly than me."

And then there are new faces, such as Shannon Cullen of Redlands, who won the 200 individual medley Thursday. Cullen, 15, was edged in the 400 IM Friday by another teenager, Corrie Murphy, 16, of Seattle.

But Hedgepeth was not the only familiar face to perform well Friday. Resident national team member Tripp Schwenk continued a strong comeback by winning the 100 backstroke in 56.39 seconds, almost a second faster than second-place Matt Ulrickson. Bart Kizierowski of Mission Viejo High School was third.

Schwenk won the 200 backstroke Thursday night and has emerged as the country's top backstroker heading into the Olympic trials at Indianapolis next month.

Richelle Depold, former UCLA star now training with the resident team at Colorado Springs, Colo., won the 100 butterfly; and Eric Namesnik, the 1992 silver medalist, won the 400 IM convincingly over Poland's Piotr Florczyk, who trains at Mission Viejo.

Hedgepeth will swim in her fourth U.S. Olympic trials in March. In her first one in 1984, she was the meet's youngest competitor at 13.

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