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CHRIS FOSTER

Team Spirit Boosts Even the Best

May 14, 1996|CHRIS FOSTER

The nail polish said plenty.

Irvine freshman Amanda Beard, fresh from a dominating performance in the 100-yard breaststroke, had been the star of Friday's Southern Section Division I swim meet. Her lime-green nails were a matter of personal preference. That it was a school color wasn't the initial idea.

"I just wanted them green today," she said.

El Toro's Lara Reaves, Beard's Novaquatics teammate, had a solid meet, with a little less fanfare. But she had performed well in the 100 butterfly. Her blue and yellow nails, on hands and feet, were a specific message.

"You have to show spirit," said Reaves, also a freshman. "That's the big difference between this meet and my club meets."

Bigger meets are ahead. For Beard, it's the Olympics. For Reaves, the junior nationals. But Friday they had this in common: It was the first time they represented represented their schools in the section championships.

So even if Beard didn't realize she was using a school color, she understood the moment.

"Your teammates are cheering you on and pushing you," said Beard, who will compete in the 100- and 200-meter breaststroke in Atlanta. "It's a lot of fun."

In a sport that thrives on the individual, a little rah-rah does the soul good.

*

Beard and Reaves are not the only freshmen making a big splash. This, club coaches say, is the best freshman class since 1984-85, when that little pixie Janet Evans walked onto the El Dorado campus.

That group also included Capistrano Valley's Amy Shaw, who set the U.S. record in the 200-meter breaststroke--twice on the same day. They were dominating in the 1986 Goodwill Games and Evans went on to Olympic fame. Quite a group to be compared with, but a reasonable statement.

These freshmen already have an Olympian in Beard. She displayed her skills by setting a section record (1 minute 1.79 seconds) in the 100 breaststroke. In all, 10 freshmen qualified for championship finals, some in two events.

"I don't even feel like a freshman," San Clemente freestyle specialist Ari Gardner said. "The seniors treat me well. I guess it's because I give them good competition."

Or are the seniors merely good competition for the freshmen?

Freshmen Jennifer Parmenter (L.A. Baptist) and Shannon Cullen (Redlands) and Beard were 1-2-3 in the 200 IM, leaving defending champion, and senior, Erin Schatz (Ventura Buena) in their wake.

*

Meanwhile, in international news . . .

Mission Viejo again romped to the Division I boys' title--its 20th since 1975--scoring a whopping 396.5 points. It was a performance to write home about, provided they have enough postage.

This team has such an international flavor, it should wear powder blue swim caps with UN stenciled on the side. Of the 10 Diablos who qualified for championship finals, six were from other countries.

Why only six? Maybe, like Major League Soccer, there's a quota on foreign-born athletes.

Of course, this has been a touchy subject for years in the swimming circles. Mission Viejo has dominated with foreign athletes since 1975. This season, though, the competition seemed more ludicrous to opposing coaches, whose response has always been to turn the meet into a competition for second (congratulations Santa Margarita).

Diablo Coach Mike Pelton even looked on the title as somewhat secondary. He said Friday his swimmers' focus was on getting senior national times.

Two decades of this does get a little silly.

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