The race for the women's team championship at the AAU National Swimming Championships was thrown into confusion yesterday by a protest challenging the California residency of Melissa Belote.

The two-time Olympian and triple gold medal winner from Springfield, Va., quit the Solotar Swim Team last fall and now is swimming for DeAnza Swim Club of Cupertino, Calif. The protest was filed because Belote was not a resident of California for 120 days before becoming a member of DeAnza as required by AAU rules.

Belote scored 26 individual points and swam on its third-place 800-free relay which is another 32 points. The confusion arises because her points may be taken away if the protest is accepted by the AAU. This action could make a difference in whether Nashville Aquatic Club or Mission Viejo wins the women's title, said meet director Ann Supple.

Belote said her residence in California began when she practiced with DeAnza over Christmas break. The junior at Arizona State University said she later returned to DeAnza in mid-March for another week of practice.

The protest may take as long as six months to settle and until the protest is resolved, the women's team champion will not be announced, Supple said.

Nashville Acquatic Club and Mission Viejo, the defending champion, are in a tight battle with only 18 points sperating them. Supple said Belote's points could be the deciding factor.

Last night's finals in the four-day meet, which has seen 16 American records established, the men's and women's 100-yard freestyle, 1650-yard freestyle, 200-yard individual medley and the 400-yard free relay.