And how does Mary T. view the grind? What about next season and the one after that? Will she continue to give 100% or will she—as so many have before her—begin to burn out psychologically? "I'll worry about that after the Olympics," she says. "Then I'll decide if I want to go on, to give up my time."
Most swimmers have to pace themselves more in the butterfly than in other events because it's more demanding. They tire faster and lose strength. As for Mary T., she just shrugs when asked if it's the hardest stroke. "It's not hard for me," she says. "I like it. I was always a butterflyer. It's a stroke where you can't really loaf, 'cause you'll sink if you do."
The truth is, Meagher thrives on the hard workouts. After setting junior records, last April she won her first national title, taking the 200-yard fly at the AAU short-course championships. At a local invitational meet in June she beat her Sullivan Award-winning heroine, Nashville's Tracy Caulkins, 16, by more than five seconds in the 200.
All was going beautifully. Then Pursley called the Lakeside team together and announced he will move this fall to Cincinnati, 100 miles away, to coach the Cincinnati Marlins. Some Louisville kids are sure to follow, but will Mary T. be one of them?
The Meaghers haven't decided. "Right now she's registered to go to Sacred Heart in Louisville," says her dad. "She's 14 years old and just going into her freshman year in high school, and that's a very traumatic experience in itself without having to go away from home."
If it is, Mary T. will never let on. "I never know how she's doing," says her mother, Floy. "She'll come home from some meet and I'll say, 'Well, how did you do?' And she'll just shrug and say, 'Oh, O.K.' "
"I'll bet that I've told more people that Mary T. is my sister than she's told people she swims," says sister Anne.
Mary T. has collected so many trophies over the years that nobody in the family knows how many there are. Or were. Because of a lack of space, Floy has been forced to throw some out. Mary T. won her first race at five, a 25-yard freestyle. She will tell you that she has "maybe a couple of dozen trophies." Her mother puts the count at more than a hundred. Not to mention countless medals and ribbons.
Chances are that most people know by now that the little Meagher girl (5'5", 118 pounds) is in no danger of drowning; indeed she now shares the limelight with Caulkins, Cynthia (Sippy) Woodhead, 15, America's best female sprinter, and Kim Linehan, 16, who set a world record Sunday night in the 1,500-meter freestyle.
At Fort Lauderdale, Caulkins was beaten soundly by Meagher in the 200 fly but came back to win the 200- and 400-meter individual medleys and set an American record of 2:33.88 in the 200 breaststroke. Woodhead, from Riverside, Calif., won the 100, 200 and 400 free-styles and was third in the 800. Linehan, who swims for the Longhorn Aquatic Club in Austin, Texas, was timed in 16:04.49 in the 1,500, breaking the record of 16:06.63 set by Australia's Tracey Wickham last February. Linehan had set an American record of 8:24.70 in the 800-meter freestyle earlier in the week.