It was business as usual for coach Richard Quick. At the NCAA women's swimming and diving championships in Indianapolis last week, he chewed on the end of a rolled-up program, shouted himself hoarse at poolside and congratulated Texas swimmers as they stepped down from the victory stand. In the end, Quick was clutching his sixth consecutive team trophy. This time, however, he didn't hold up his index and pinky fingers in the traditional Longhorn salute. The first five NCAA titles were won by Texas, but this one was snatched by Quick's new team, Stanford, which beat the Lady Longhorns he had left behind, 610.5 points to 547.
Remarkably, Quick won with a team that he didn't recruit and that included only one Olympian, Jenna Johnson, who had won a silver and a gold in '84. Indeed, before the NCAA meet began. Quick had predicted that the Cardinal women would finish third. "I'd bet on Florida," he said. "They have quality and depth at nearly every position. The rest will be a scramble for second."
It was a good bet. The Florida team, which included three Olympians from the U.S. and two from Canada, looked even stronger than it had the year before, when it had won 12 of 18 swimming events at the NCAAs. But last week the Lady Gators swam like handbags. At the end of the first day of the three-day meet, they were in third, 64 points behind first-place Texas. The next day the Gators rallied, but a back injury to senior Tami Bruce, who won the 200, 500 and 1,650 frees last year, and poor performances from junior Julie Gorman and sophomore Lorraine Perkins sank the Gators' chances. They finished third overall with 536 points.
At the same time, Texas, led by lanky sophomore Leigh Ann Fetter, was swimming pretty. Fetter, who finished fifth in the 50-meter freestyle in Seoul, appears to be coming into her own at age 19. On Thursday she broke a six-year-old American record with a 22.10 in a 50-yard free prelim, despite making a tight turn. That night in the finals, she jammed the turn even more but still lowered the mark to 22.05. Her coach, Mark Schubert, was the only observer left unimpressed. "I expected her to go under 22 today," he said. "'Leigh Ann has the potential to be the best in the world. That's our goal."
In the 100 free, Fetter beat a field that included American record-holder Angel Myers, who was competing in her first major meet since she tested positive for steroids at the U.S. Olympic Trials in August. U.S. Swimming, the sport's national governing body, has banned her from domestic and international competition through this year, but the NCAA does not recognize the suspension. Though she finished sixth in the 100 free, Myers, a senior at Furman, won the 200-yard individual medley and was second in the 100 fly.
The big newsmaker, however, was Fetter. In addition to her earlier victories, she also helped Texas break American records in the 200 and 400 free relays. And every time she picked up a medal she was greeted with a hug by her former coach, Quick.
Not that Quick didn't have enough hugging to do on his own bench. The Cardinal women were winning ugly, finishing first in only two events—the 400 IM and the 100 fly—but piling up enough seconds and thirds to take the team title. "'The best team doesn't always win." Quick said after victory was assured Saturday morning. "Of the six championships I've won, I think three were won with inferior talent."
When Quick, 46, announced in August that he was leaving Texas to replace retiring coach George Haines at Stanford, the swimming world was shocked because he had been such a success at Texas. But the transition was easier than he expected. "It's not very different at all at Stanford," he said. "I've never felt so comfortable in a new situation so quickly in my life."
The adjustment took a little longer for the Stanford women. "The sprinters weren't too happy at first because he just killed us." says sophomore Michelle Griglione, the 400 IM winner in Indianapolis. From the start, Quick had his swimmers hustling up the stadium stairs, and he was at poolside at 6 a.m. every morning, shouting "Go! Go!"
Quick, who was head coach of the '88 U.S. Olympic team, denies rumors that he will soon leave Stanford to coach the men's team at his alma mater, Southern Methodist. After all, the future looks pretty bright. Twelve of the 17 Cardinal swimmers are expected back next season, and a high school senior from Placentia, Calif., named Janet Evans may well wind up at Stanford. Last Saturday night, as Quick was toweling off after his victory dunking, he corrected those who congratulated him on winning his sixth NCAA title. "I really think of it as number one," he said.