For decades, American and Maryland universities have dominated college swimming in the D.C. area and over much of the East Coast. The two schools continue to field strong teams, but they are facing stiffer competition locally because of the increased interest in swimming.
That surge has led the Amateur Athletic Union to rank the Washington area as the sixth best in the nation for developing talented young swimmers.
The reasons range from the influence of the Olympics on sub-teen swimmers to the construction and proposed construction of modern year-round facilities to the increasing number of athletic scholarships available at area colleges.
Colleges without pools use other schools' facilities for whatever share of time the host school can afford to give up. Still other colleges without swimming pools, such as George Mason in Northern Virginia, are frustrated to find themselves with no water in the midst of potential world record-holders.
Colleges with dilapidated facilities are imploring alumni who normally sign astronomical checks for the football and basketball teams to put aside money for a new pool.
In the meantime, area swimming coaches say, too many youngsters are leaving here for colleges in California, Arizona and Florida after learning and developing their skills at country clubs, swimming clubs and community pools here.
With the exception of Arlington and Washington, very few area high schools have pools. So many of the young swimmers have come up through the ranks of the 18 AAU organizations and 19 country clubs in the area.
"Swimming is so new in this area, and there's no reason some kids might not consider it (as their priority sport) if they knew of the opportunities available," said Sonia Clesner, the women's swimming coach at George Washington University, where the program is in its second year.
This year Clesner and her assistant, Carl Cox, have four of their 18 team members on some form of athletic scholarship and hope to increase that number next year.
Like other coaches restricted by women's collegiate recruiting rules, the two do most of their scouting at AAU and high school meets around here and get recommendations from coaches.
Both are concerned that most local nigh school systems, particularly in suburban Maryland, cannot compare in facilities and coaching with that available in Northern Virginia's high schools and private clubs.
"The only way a high school swimmer can train in some places around here is to go to a private facility and pay," said Clesner. "And they're doing it, too."
GW swimmer Katherine Fasanella qualified yesterday for the small college national championships of the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women in March. Clesner also expects Lolita Nisley, Anne Jordan and Chris Napier to qualify.
Ed Laso, the GW men's swimming coach, has 10 of his 13 swimmers on partial scholarships and hopes to recruit 12 to 15 more from this area for next year.
"The trend in college athletics is just like anything else. It's a race for the economic dollar," Laso said. "You pretty much have to stay in your area and you can't spend a lot of money to recruit in Florida and California."
Economics is a problem for the swimmers, too. In most cases they have invested large amounts of money in training and, unless they get financial aid from the colleges, never really recoup their investments. There are no professional swimming leagues.
The swimmer also receives limited recognition - except during Olympic years, Laso said.
His own team is somewhat of a United Nations with swimmers such as Tony Roig from Puerto Rico, who specializes in the backstroke and individual medley, and Petier Roleoffs of the Netherlands who competes in the breastroke and individual medley.
Other standouts are John Frederickson, who has swum the 500-yard freestyle in 5:15 and the 200-yard in 1:58.6, and John Principato, who has covered the 50-yard freestyle in 22.9 seconds and who is expected to break the 50-second mark in 100 yards by the end of the year.
While GW is in the process of building its young team, two other universities - American and Maryland - have been recognized as the powerhouses of local swimming.
Bob Frailey, athletic director at American for the past 13 years, was its swimming coach for 16 years before that, earning an overall record of 99-33.
Frailey said he believes the emergence of so much area talent can be traced to the increase in country club and community pools over the last several years.
"With the explosion of community pools, kids have been starting younger and progressing in the age-division categories," Frailey said. "Here, it's become like going to the Redskins games - a social as well as an educational affair.
"Parents got deeply involved with it and would get up at 5 in the morning to drive the kids to practice. The AAU hasn't been responsible for all of it because the country club pools are highly organized and have good coaches."
Frailey's coaching successor, Joe Rogers, has had only two losing seasons in his 21 years of coaching at the high school and college levels. In his 12 years at American, Rogers has compiled a 122-37 record.
Nine of his 17 swimmers have some form of athletic scholarship and Rogers says he believes most coaches are aware that some aid is available. The problems many coaches have in recruiting, he says, often stem from a lack of modern facilities - witness AU's four-lane, 25-yard pool. Most modern pools have eight lanes.
Although he has seven local swimmers on his team, Rogers said most college-age swimmers just simply want to get away from home at that age.
Although the team is pretty well balanced, four AU swimmers picked up first-place finishes in a recent 11-event East Coast Conference meet.
Eric Yakuchev won the 50-yard freestyle in 21.81 and the 100-yard freestyle in 47.7. Billy Howarth finished first in the 500-yard freestyle with 4:49.06 while Doug Dean took first in the 200-yard breaststroke with 2:19.31.
Charlie Hoffman is in his first year as Maryland's head coach, having served three years as an assistant to Bill Campbell, whose 19-year record was 221-45.
During Campbell's reign, Maryland dominated swimming in the East, winning the Eastern Collegiate Relays for 12 successive years until they were canceled.
The team went on to win the Penn State relays for the next six years, lost to Pittsburgh last year and recaptured the title this year. Along the way, the Terps also won seven Atlantic Coast Conference championships and the Metropolitan Championships here for 10 years.
But for all these championships, the Terps have never won in the NCAA nationals, although one swimmer, Phil Denkevintz, came in second in the 50-yard freestyle.
This year, Hoffman has 19 swimmers, one of whom is on full scholarship and 10 on partial. Only four of them are from the Washington or Baltimore areas, with the rest coming from Pennsylvania where Hoffman and Campbell say there is an excellent statewide high school swimming program.
The Terps have one of the area's outstanding swimmers in Bob Hassett from Falls Church, who broke the pool record at Princeton in December by finishing the 200-yard individual medley in 1:58.2. Maryland beat Princeton, 71-42.
At a meet against Navy, Sid Burkot tied for the 100-yard freestyle pool record with 47.3 and Paul Kozicki bettered his record in the 200-yard freestyle with a time of 1:43.9.
In preparing for the Princeton meet, the swimmers shaved their heads and all improved their records, Hoffman said. He added that the shaving provided a psychological boost more than anything else.
Lisa Papa is coach of Maryland's 12-member women's team, which having its first full-season schedule this year.
Papa has a nucleus of strength in Kathy Paras, a butterfly and distance swimmer who has gone 1:01 in the 100-yard butterfly; Betsy Rafferty, who has swum the 100-yard freestyle in 57 seconds and the 200 in 2:04; Jane Havelka, who completed the 50-yard butterfly in 28.8 seconds, and Cindy Collins, who has clocked 5:37 in the 500-yard freestyle.
Although the meets and some practices are in Cole Field House's six-lane, 25-yard pool, some practices are still in the old four-lane, 25-yard pool.
Without a doubt, the most improved team in the area is the U.S. Naval Academy's, undefeated in its first six meets this season after coming off a 3-7 record last year.
Coach Lee Lawrence said the Mids have been practicing 80,000 yards a week and it paid off in the season opener at Harvard, where the Mids won, 71-42, for the first time on the Crimson campus in 18 years.
In the breaststroke and individual medley, the Mids, had eight first out of 12. The present team holds nine school records out of 13. Two of those marks belong to freestyle Mark Heinrich and two to diver Rusty Eckstrom.
Heinrich has one of the nation's best time in the 200-yard freestyle (1:42.58) and the 15th best in the 500-yard freestyle (4:41.10).
Joe Kernan is listed as No. 2 nationally in the 50-yard freestyle with a time of 21.03, but has since set a school record of 20.97. Navy's 400-yard freestyle relay team is second in the country with its 3:05.65.
Georgetown's John Wooters has a 15-member team, which includes three women.They are limited to practicing at AU's pool for 90 minutes five nights a week. Georgetown offers no athletic grants.
"This makes it extra tough on us so just having a winning season is a big plus for us," said second-year coach Wooters, who was a Hoya diver for four years. The team has broken over the .500 mark the last four years.
With the university slated to break ground in May for a new athletic facility, he is hoping for an eight-lane, 50-meter pool with a separate diving well and a three-meter board.
He has talented swimmers in Kris ten Brustad, Paul Holden, Drew Drake and Ed McNamara, who holds school records of 5:24.5 in the 500-yard freestyle and 2:12.5 in the 200-yard individual medley.
Catholic's Jone Dowd has a 12-member women's team that completes in a 50-year-old pool, but that disadvantage is offset some by partial tuition grants to three swimmers this year.
But, Dowd said, the "primary purpose of the university is to run an educational program and our athletic program has to be secondary. As the (students) come here, we're going to try to help them enjoy sports."
The Cardinals have two strong swimmers in Janet McGowan, who has swum the 80-yard individual medley in 56.4 seconds, and Anne Bruton, who has been clocked in the 40-yard breastroke in 29.1 seconds.
The nine Howard swimmers under coach Joe Bell are on full scholarship. In return for this, Bell agreed to help save money by not playing colleges more than 250 miles away and to forego reimbursement for recruiting or scouting trips.
Although swimming has been dominated by white atheletes, Bell said there are some fine black swimmers coming up through the AAU ranks and high school pools in the District and some suburbs.
"I can offer a kid the same thing as Maryland or UCLA," Bell says. "The only question is whether they want to come to a black school."
Howard, which has a six-lane, 25-yard pool built in 1964, is seeking entry into the ECC to compete with the other local colleges.
Three George Washington women won two events each as the Colonials easily downed Gallaudet, 77-42, in a womens' swim meet yesterday at George Washington. Kathy Fasonelli won the 50-yard butterfly (29.1) and qualified for the small college championships in early March.
Gallaudet College, the only nationally accredited four-year college for the deaf, will send Pam Scurlock to the World Deaf Olympics in Romania this summer for competition in the freestyle. Coach Barbara Pomweroy also has strong swimmers in freestyler Lynn Ballard and Regina Russo, who is strong in the backstroke and butterfly.
Regina's brother Mike, a butterfly swimmer, is on the Gallaudet men's team which also has Bill Ford in the butterfly.