For a megastar such as track and field's Marion Jones, the U.S. trials for the Olympic Games can be a minefield, a series of obstacles to be maneuvered on the way to Sydney, Australia.
To a recent college graduate such as swimmer Abigail Clark, the trials are a time to stop and smell the roses, in addition to the chlorine.
More than 1,200 men and women will converge in Indianapolis for the U.S. swimming trials, which begin Aug. 9.
The meet should be a steppingstone for a defending gold medalist like Timonium's Beth Botsford, but it's a farewell party for Clark, who graduated from Catonsville High four years ago.
"I don't have any dreams about making the team," Clark said. "I never went to the junior nationals. I never got into the NCAA championships. I'm just excited to be going to the trials, and looking forward to retirement."
Clark will not compete in Indianapolis under the auspices of Speedo or Nike. She holds down a full-time job with a travel agency in Boston, because it allows her to start her shift at noon, after she's done a serious morning workout. Eventually, she'll do something else with the B.S. in communications she earned at Boston University.
Unlike the majority of swimmers at the trials, Clark didn't specialize in the sport until she got to college. Through her sophomore year at Catonsville, she played volleyball, basketball and ran track. She stuck with volleyball, and still speaks with regret over the state final the Comets dropped when she was a senior.
Clark became a scholarship-caliber swimmer under the direction of Ken DeGruchy, her Annapolis-based coach. She was the first woman to be named MVP of a Boston University team four consecutive years.
This past winter, she won the ECAC championship in the 100-yard breaststroke, with a time that was fast enough to get her into the Olympic trials, but not the NCAAs.
"Even though they don't have tickets yet, my mom and dad [Donna and Gus] are going to Indianapolis," Clark said Friday. "My boyfriend and his father are driving out, but they don't have tickets, either."
Phelps still No. 2
Michael Phelps could find the start of his sophomore studies at Towson High delayed by a trip to Sydney, since he remains the second-fastest American in the 200-meter butterfly this year.
The 15-year-old prodigy showed off all of his strokes at the Long Island Open two weeks ago, winning the 200 and 400 individual medleys, in addition to the 100 and 200 butterfly.
Phelps, who turned 15 last month, is not in range of Tom Dolan, the medley man who thinks of himself as the world's best all-around swimmer, but he's getting there. Phelps' times in the 200 and 400 IMs, 2:05.54 and 4:23.86, respectively, each rank sixth among American men this year.
Tom Hannan, a Mount St. Joseph grad, will also be a factor in Indianapolis. He recently dipped to 53.81 in the 100 fly, the third-fastest time by an American this year. Hannan completed his sophomore year at Texas, where he was fifth in the NCAAs.
Phelps swims for the North Baltimore Aquatic Club, which will send at least five other men and women to the trials.
Anita Nall, the Towson Catholic grad who won relay gold in 1992, will be back for her third trials. Omar Fraser (Loyola High) and Megan Riddle (Fallston) are student-athletes at Auburn. Joe Curreri (Loyola) will be a junior at USC, and Jennifer Lears (Roland Park Country School) will be a senior at Brown.
UMBC and Coppin State will be represented at the Olympics under flags other than that of the United States.
Medhi Addadi, a junior economics major from Algeria, swims for UMBC. He won the 100 backstroke at the All-African Games last fall, and thus earned a berth on the Algerian team.
Two runners with ties to Coppin will compete in track and field. Sophomore Nickie Peters is the fastest man in the 800 and 1,500 from St. Vincent and the Grenadines, in the West Indies. Ian Roberts, who ran for Coppin in 1998, will represent Guyana in the 800.
Hurdler James Carter, a Mervo grad, might not be the only product of a Baltimore City school who gets to run for the U.S. track and field team.
Bernard Williams, who went to Carver High, will be among the eight men who will gather in Berlin, Germany, in late August to practice exchanges for the 4x100 relay.
In a July 23 story on Carter, The Sun incorrectly reported that he had a thyroid tumor removed when he was in the seventh grade. The tumor was removed from his thymus gland.
Paul McMullen can be reached at McMullenSun@aol.com or at 410-332-6662.