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Event Is Tailor-Made for Captive Audience

500-yard freestyle heats in Southern Section Division I prelims are watched with interest as Jensen posts best boys' time, and Binder and Peirsol lead the girls.

May 15, 2003|Dan Arritt | Times Staff Writer

The 500-yard freestyle heats at the Southern Section preliminaries usually provide the perfect opportunity for spectators to stand and stretch, fill the concession lines or wander outside for some fresh ocean air.

But Wednesday, few strayed from the grandstands at Belmont Plaza in Long Beach during the 45 minutes it took to complete the eight Division I qualifying races.

Nobody wanted to miss a preview of what figures to be the most entertaining event at the Division I finals Friday night at Belmont Plaza, with Larsen Jensen of Mission Viejo, Adrienne Binder of Santa Barbara San Marcos and Hayley Peirsol of Newport Harbor aiming at the two oldest national public high school records.

Jensen, the American record holder in the 800-meter freestyle, was the top qualifier Wednesday in the boys' 500 with a time of 4 minutes 27.29 seconds. Jensen had already proved he's within reach of the national high school record of 4:16.39, set by Jeff Kostoff of Upland in 1983. He won the event in 4:16.93 last month at the Mission Viejo Invitational, but admitted after Wednesday's prelim that his training schedule has left him feeling less rested this week.

"If I had gone 4:21 or 4:22 [in the prelims] then I might have put on a leg suit and gone for [the record]," he said. "It's different for me here because everyone else is treating this like a championship meet, but I'm just training through it, getting ready for the world championships this summer."

Binder and Peirsol, both Auburn-bound seniors, have been closing in on the national high school record in the girls' 500 freestyle and looked strong in their qualifying heats.

Binder was the top qualifier with a time of 4:49.84. Peirsol was second fastest after winning her heat in 4:52.75. Afterward, they looked anything like rivals, trying on each other's swim goggles while visiting in the warm-down pool.

"We're actually good friends," Binder said.

Binder won the Division I title in the event last season in 4:42.75, edging Peirsol's 4:45.41. Both are back this season and have demonstrated they're within reach of Janet Evans' 15-year-old national high school record of 4:37.30.

"I've been thinking about that record for a couple years," Binder said.

Binder nearly toppled Evans' U.S. record in the 1,650 freestyle March 2 at the Speedo Champions Series in Commerce, finishing within 3.3 seconds of the 13-year-old mark.

"I was really disappointed after that race, being only three seconds off," she said. "Going into the race, I felt I could break the record."

Peirsol won the 500 freestyle in 4:50.41 at last week's Sea View League final, surpassing the meet record of 4:51.11 set four years earlier by 2000 Olympic bronze medalist Kaitlin Sandeno of Lake Forest El Toro.

Peirsol also won the bronze medal in the 800-meter freestyle at the Pan Pacific Championships last summer and a month earlier defeated Binder by three seconds in the event at the Janet Evans Invitational at USC. At the same invitational, Peirsol broke Sandeno's meet record in the 1,500-meter freestyle.

Both Binder and Peirsol will take aim at Sandeno's Division I record of 4:39.64. By comparison, both posted faster times last year as juniors than Sandeno did when she was a junior.

"I think it's going to be a great race," said San Marcos Coach Scott Brennan. "Hayley has the talent to push Adrienne and Adrienne has the talent to push Hayley."

Dave Salo, who coaches Peirsol with the Irvine Novaquatics swim club, said he would give the edge to Binder, considering Peirsol was ill earlier in the week and Binder is stronger in the short-course format.

"Adrienne is a little better off the walls," said Salo.

Jensen, who signed with USC, transferred to Mission Viejo last summer from Bakersfield Garces so he could train with the Mission Viejo Nadadores swim club. He had not competed in high school swimming since his freshman season, but has enjoyed the experience.

"All in all, it has gone pretty well," he said.

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