Gibb looks to build on showing at nationals

Coughlin becomes first swimmer since '78 to win five national titles

Posted: Sunday, August 18, 2002

Even though he posted some of the top finishes ever by an Alaska swimmer at the U.S. national championships, Derek Gibb wanted more.

Gibb, a 1999 Petersburg High School graduate whose family now lives in Juneau, finished 10th in the 50-meter freestyle, 24th in the 100 free and 28th in the 100 backstroke at the five-day meet that ended Saturday in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. He also swam for the Auburn Aquatics 400 free relay team that took fifth place.

But after the meet, Gibb, a junior-to-be at Auburn University, said he was disappointed by some of his swims.

"Me, personally, I didn't feel I went very fast," Gibb said by phone from his apartment in Auburn, Ala. "But there were quite a few races that were the fastest the U.S. has ever seen."

Gibb set personal records in all three of his individual events, with a time of 23.40 seconds in the 50 free preliminaries (23.43 in the B Final), 51.56 in the 100 free prelims (52.18 in the C Final) and 58.45 in the 100 back. In the 400 free relay, Gibb posted a 50 free split of 24.49 and had a total time of 51.96 for his 100-meter leg. When he last competed at the national meet in 2000, Gibb took 31st place in the 50 free and tied for 71st in the 100 free.

"I made some improvement, but personally I felt I could have gone faster," Gibb said. "After the way I swam in the college season (seventh place in the 50 free and 39th in the 100 free), I should have made the (A) finals in the 50 and at least the B Final in the 100. In the relay, we weren't shaved but we still should have gotten third. Being in the top 10 in the nation is pretty nice, but like I said, I should have been in the top five."

Gibb said he'll find out today whether or not he'll make the U.S. team in the 50 free for the 2003 World University Games in Daegu, South Korea. If he makes the team, it will be Gibb's first major international competition. Gibb said his ultimate goal is to make the 2004 U.S. Olympic Team.

"That's definitely my goal, but I think I have a better shot to make it (the Olympics) in the 100 (free)," Gibb said. "But that means I'll have to train a little different."

Gibb is known as a sprint freestyle swimmer, but he just missed - by 0.01 seconds - making the C Final in the 100 back. Gibb said it was the first time he's competed in the backstroke since winning the state 100-yard back title his senior year in high school.

"It'll probably be my third event now in college," Gibb said.

Gibb said he's already thinking about his second year at Auburn, especially since he'll be with the team the whole season. Last year, Gibb was required to sit out the first part of the season because of his transfer from Golden West Community College in California.

"I've done so much strokework and the training is so intense," Gibb said. "And everyone is so damn good here, you really have to keep up. But it helped me out a lot. I got more experience with big meets, going to the NCAAs and that made it easier to go fast here."

Gibb, who didn't swim Friday or Saturday, was one of two Alaskans to compete at the national meet. The other Alaskan was Soldotna's Joshua Gemmell, who competed for Sun Devil Aquatics Team of Tempe, Ariz., the club team for Arizona State University swimmers.

Gemmell swam the breaststroke leg for Sun Devil Aquatics' 12th-place team in the 400-meter medley relay on Friday. Gemmell's leg time was 1:06.05 and the team's total time was 3:49.97. Circle C Swimming of Austin, Texas, won the race in a meet-record time of 3:38.27. Auburn Aquatics took second place in 3:41.14, but Gibb was not on the relay team.

In other events, Natalie Coughlin broke the oldest American swimming record Friday, winning the 200-meter backstroke in 2:08.53.

Coughlin narrowly beat Betsy Mitchell's 1986 time of 2:08.60 for the record and her fifth win of the meet. Coughlin is the first person since 1978 to win five events at one national championships, a feat last accomplished by Tracy Caulkins.

Coughlin, of Concord, Calif., also won the 100 backstroke, butterfly and freestyle, plus the 200 freestyle. She broke the world record in the 100 back. She was also a member of the California Aquatics team that won the 400 medley relay on Friday, posting a meet-record time of 4:07.78.

"My plan was to just take it out and see where it got me," Coughlin said of her 200 backstroke performance. "It was my best time by three-and-a-half seconds, so I was pleased, especially after this long week."

Not to be outdone, Michael Phelps struck again, holding off Ian Crocker in the 100-meter butterfly to break Crocker's American record with a time of 51.88, just .07 off of the world mark.

Phelps, of Baltimore, won four events at the meet, breaking one world (400 individual medley) and two American records (100 butterfly, 200 individual medley).

"I didn't expect that at all," Phelps said. "I knew Crocker would be very, very hard to beat and I knew he would go out fast. My goal was pretty much to get out with him and give it everything I could."

In other Friday events, Erik Vendt of North Easton, Mass., won the men's 1,500 freestyle in 15:03.49 and Diana Munz of Chagrin Falls, Ohio, won the women's 800 freestyle in 8:29.02 for the 20th national title of her career.

The meet ended Saturday with Lauren Costella of the Carson Tigersharks team winning the women's 1,500 free in 16:29.16 and John Cole of Gator Swim Team of Florida winning the men's 800 free in 8:01.39.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Charles Bingham can be reached at

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