While other swimmers with more modest assignments complained about breathing problems at 7,250 feet, 17-year-old Jeff Kostoff completed a triple in the National Sports Festival by winning the 1,500-meter freestyle tonight in 15:59.93.

"The altitude is really not that bad if you swim smart," said Kostoff, who had won the 400 individual medley and 400 freestyle on Sunday. "It screws up your races because you have to go out easier than normal, and you get tired so easily here that you have to take a nap after you work out. But I did it to try to make me tougher and I think I did.

"My goal was to go under 16 minutes and I was watching the board as I swam. My time was slower than I thought it would be, but I was swimming alone and it helps to have somebody with you."

Michelle Richardson, 14, also wrapped up a triple tonight. She easily took the 1,500 in 17:06.08, after winning the 400 and 800 earlier.

"I didn't have any problems breathing," Richardson said. "I thought I'd be more tired than I am. I went out pretty comfortable and then just brought it back."

"I don't see how the girls, and Kostoff also, went that fast," said Steve Lundquist, who swept the breaststroke events here. "The altitude threw me off, because you don't want to go out fast and have your legs feeling like bricks. But I guess the mind is the toughest part in that area."

The altitude was in Rowdy Gaines' mind even in the 100 freestyle. Gaines, the world record holder, lost to Bill Barrett, in a swift 51.30 that established a Festival record.

"I went into the 100 thinking it would be a problem and I breathed every stroke the whole way, which you shouldn't do," said Gaines.

"I tied up the last 10 or 15 meters but I was far enough in front to win it," Barrett said. "I thought Rowdy would be out a little quicker, but I'm glad he wasn't. There's no way you can beat him coming from behind."

Darci Bodner of Auburn won a Southeastern Conference battle from Florida's Theresa Andrews of Annapolis, Md., in the 200 backstroke. Bodner, in lane seven, swept past Andrews, the leader at the turn in lane five, on the final 100 and won by more than a body length in 2:20.50.

Dennis Baker completed a butterfly sweep by taking the 200 in 2:05.84, a pool record. Cliff Looschen added the 200 backstroke, in 2:07.35, to his 100 title.