But the young Longhorns had lately begun to jell. The night before the start of the Dallas meet, the No. 9-ranked Longhorns stunned No. 2 Florida 65-46 in a dual meet in Austin. It was no fluke, either; Texas has depth, balance and a star in Doug Gjertsen, who as a freshman last year won the 200 backstroke and was the fourth-highest point scorer at the NCAA championships. Gjertsen's win in the 200 back in 1:48.01 on Saturday night moved his team into a slight lead.
The races fired off in rapid succession, Texas gaining a point here, Cal, a point there. With only the 200-free relay remaining, the Longhorns were ahead 261�-260.
Just a year ago Cal would have trounced Texas in the 200-free relay; the Bears had Biondi, and the Longhorns had virtually no sprint freestylers. But Texas coach Eddie Reese has developed a pair of unheralded sprinters who may yet carry Texas to an NCAA title. One is Keith Anderson, a sophomore out of Hattiesburg, Miss. The other is Jordan.
Jordan, who calls himself Reese's "K Mart blue-light special," was not widely recruited coming out of Highland Park High in Dallas, and he showed up at Texas in the fall of 1986 looking less than ferocious. "He had 139 pounds on a six-foot frame," recalls Reese, who red-shirted Jordan, used weight work to build him up by 25 pounds and taught him everything except how to tie a drawstring. Even with the added weight, Jordan looks like the kind of guy a swimsuit would slip off.
Swimming anchor on Saturday night, Jordan entered the pool half a body length behind Cal's Sean Killion and scorched his 50 yards in 19.9 seconds to give Texas a winning time of 1:22.56. SMU came in second at 1:22.58, and Cal was third in 1:22.70. The Longhorns won the meet with 285� points; the runner-up Golden Bears finished with 278.
"I don't believe it," said Reese with a grin and a shake of his head. "I'd never have guessed."
It's anyone's guess, of course, whether Texas will have as much success at the NCAAs in Indianapolis in April. Favorite USC will have four American-record holders in its lineup. In fact, if history is any guide, the Longhorns may be in trouble: The winner of The Dallas Morning News meet has never, for whatever reason, won the NCAAs.
"This has been quite a showcase," said Thornton when it was over. His team had lost, but he was smiling. It seemed apt. After all, that's the essence of good entertainment: sending them home happy.