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Texas would be crazy not to, with an anchor like Leigh Ann Fetter, the American-record holder in the 50-yard free. "She's a drop-dead sprinter," said Evans earlier that evening, after watching Fetter win the 100-yard free in 48.48. "She's the complete opposite of me. I can't swim the 50 for my life."
That isn't the only difference between these two swimmers. Fetter, a 20-year-old junior from Louisville, didn't swim competitively until she was 16. And Fetter was far from an instant success. At 17, the age at which Evans won three gold medals at the Seoul Olympics, Fetter finished 39th in the 50-yard free at the Junior Olympics-East with a time of 28.09. On top of that, the result sheet listed her as Leigh Fatter.
What's in a name? In this case, absolutely nothing. Fetter carries 144 pounds of lean muscle on her 5'11" frame. "I don't think she has an ounce of fat on her," says 28-year-old Jill Sterkel, an assistant coach at Texas who is also Fetter's training partner. "You can see every muscle in her body. She has an incredible build."
Even more remarkable is Fetter's ability to see the future in dreams. Two years ago she dreamed she would finish second in the 50-meter free at the Olympic trials, and she did. The part she did not foresee was that Angel Myers, who had beaten Fetter, would test positive for steroids and be disqualified. Fetter thus became the top sprinter on the U.S. Olympic team, and her time of 25.50 at the trials became the American record. In Seoul she dreamed that one U.S. sprinter would finish third and one fifth, but she couldn't tell which of the two she would be. As it turned out, Sterkel collected the bronze, and Fetter came in fifth.
Last October, Fetter dreamed about the 50-yard free at the NCAA meet. "It was kind of scary," she says. "It was kind of verbatim. I saw 21, but I didn't see the tenths or the hundredths." Getting down in the 21's seemed like a dream, all right; Fetter's U.S. mark was 22.05.
Fetter churned through last Thursday's prelims and then looked up at the scoreboard. The time, including the tenths and hundredths, was crystal clear: 21.92. Ten years after Sterkel had broken the 23-second barrier, Fetter had broken the 22-second barrier. "I was pleased," Fetter said after winning the final in 22.12. "Actually, I was in shock. I started bawling when I got alone."
Sterkel is sure there's more to come. "The 21.92 was solid, but it wasn't anything special," she said. "Leigh's definitely capable of going 21.5 or better."
Fetter's speed almost got her in trouble in the final relay. She started behind the anchors for both Stanford and Florida but used a furious pace—almost too furious—to pull ahead of them in the first 25 yards. She had to hang on but touched first, in 3:17.23, with Stanford third, behind Florida. Her split was 48.2. The Longhorns had edged the Cardinal, 632 to 622.5.
Fetter was asked if she had had any dreams about the relays. She smiled and said, "Relays kind of take care of themselves."