For fleeting seconds, Ridgewood swimmer Caitlin Brown thought she had achieved the ultimate first.
As she climbed out of her club's pool yesterday afternoon following the 11-12 girls breaststroke in the Prince William Swim League's Blue Division championships, teammates congratulated her for breaking the longest-standing record in PWSL history, a goal Brown had aimed for all summer.
But those well-wishers were misinformed. Brown learned moments later that she had finished the 50 breast in 38.59 seconds, nine-hundredths of a second slower than former Ben Lomond swimmer Shelly Frazier, who set the record of 38.50 in 1975.
"I was kind of looking forward to it, but I didn't know if I was going to get it or not," Brown said after a few minutes of emotional disappointment. "It would have been really big if I had gotten it."
"She was more disappointed that everybody thought she had the record, and then she ended up not having it," said Shaun Brown, 19, Caitlin's brother and one of her coaches. "So she was really excited, and then she [said], 'What? I don't have it?'
"On my watch, I had 38.30, so I wanted to go over and see what the timers had. I'm usually a little slower, but not much, so I was getting really excited running over there."
With the PWSL celebrating its 25th anniversary, it indeed would have been a watershed moment for Brown, Ridgewood and the league. But Brown could still break Frazier's mark next summer. She turned 12 on June 19, so in 2000 she again will be eligible to compete in the 11-12 age group.
"I think I can break it by a lot," said Brown, who already holds league records in the 8-under 25 breast (22.67), 9-10 50 breast (40.87) and 10-under 100 individual medley (1:21.92).
Brown yesterday finished first in her age group in the 100 IM (1:19.38), and second in the 50 free (32.16) to teammate Sarah Lindberg. Brown also swam on the winning 100 medley relay (1:07.45).
Even though she almost claimed the 50 breast record, Brown feels she didn't swim her best race.
"I wanted to glide more, but I was too energized to smooth it out," she said.
Shaun Brown noticed the same sort of hitch in his sister's performance.
"She usually goes out really, really fast the first 25, and then dies out at the end," he said. "That was about the same, but it looked like she was rushing her stroke a little bit.
"She had all the kids cheering for her and everything, so I think it made her a little nervous, like she had to change her stroke somehow to make it go faster, when really she just should have kept it the same and maybe it would have worked out."