Big stage awaits swimmers at Bucknell Cameron hopes to add to State gold collection
By: BRUCE MORGAN Record Express Sports Editor firstname.lastname@example.org, Staff Writer
In the days leading up to the PIAA State Triple-A Swimming Championships last year, the consensus was that the girls 100 freestyle was going to be a three-horse race.
And Warwick’s Emily Cameron, Hershey’s Meaghan Raab and Downingtown East’s Danielle Siverling didn’t disappoint.
This year, it’s not the 100 freestyle, but the 100 breaststroke where Cameron is preparing for a big-time showdown.
The Warwick junior, a three-time State champ, holds the top seed in that event out of 32 swimmers in a time of 1:02.34, just 34-hundredths of a second in front of her friendly rival Kristen Murslack (1:02.68), a Pine Richland junior from District Seven. Behind those two, there is more than a two-second gap separating them from third-seeded Kayla Owens (1:05.03), a Greater Latrobe sophomore.
So don’t be surprised if the 100 breaststroke is a two-horse race this Thursday at Bucknell University’s Kinney Natatorium.
"I think by the seeds, it’s those two girls (Cameron and Murslack)," Warwick coach Mark Daum said. "I think that’s going to be the race."
For Cameron, however, it won’t be the only race. She also has the number one spot in the 50 free in 23.19 seconds and she is a member of two top-16 seeded relay teams — the 200 medley and 200 freestyle — all of which are slated for Wednesday, kicking off the two-day Triple-A Championships.
Warwick sophomore Morgan Haney, in addition to swimming on both relays, has also qualified in the girls 50 free and 100 free, while sophomore Justin Mitchell has punched his first ticket to the State Championshps in the boys 200 free and 500 free.
Junior Maddie Schouten and senior Tara Freeman round out the 200 medley relay, which is sixth in 1:48.69, while Freeman and senior Gabby Brubaker fill out the 13th-seeded 200 free relay with a time of 1:38.56.
The PIAA State Double-A Championships are set for Friday and Saturday, also at Bucknell University, where Manheim Central junior Paige Daniel is seeded sixth in both the girls 200 Individual Medley (2:10.52) and 500 freestyle (5:07.88).
Cameron, of course, has been a regular at the Lewisburg campus since her freshman year, when she won State gold in the 200 Individual Medley and 100 breastroke. Her winning time in the latter was 1:02.31, so it wouldn’t be a stretch to see her easily break that on Thursday. She said at the District Championships, after finishing more than four seconds ahead of Wilson’s Kylie Reiter for the gold, that she hopes to go 1:00 at States.
"You don’t want to put a ceiling on Emily," Daum said. "The only prediction I say is that Emily is going to bring her A-game. This is her stage to compete. You don’t have to worry about Emily being intimidated or backing down. This is when the lights are on and the curtain goes up and she’s going to go. I’m confident of that. If that happens, the time drops will take care of themselves."
Having known that Murslack swam a 29 split and finished with a time of 1:02.68 one day before Cameron swam the 100 breast at Districts, the seeds didn’t come as a surprise.
"(Emily) knew what was coming, so to speak," Daum said.
Cameron also knows what comes with the 50 freestyle — that is, little margin for error.
Last year, she had an up-close look as Warwick’s Dain Bomberger won State gold in the boys 50 free in 20.35 seconds.
"Basically, if you screw up your start or turn … That’s why last year when Dain was swimming the 50, I got so nervous for him because literally at States, if he messed up his start or messed up his turn, that was the end of it," Cameron said. "He had the perfect race. He went a 20.3 and that’s what I’m aiming for. Not a 20.3, but a perfect race like he had."
Cameron certainly had a very strong race in the 100 free at States last year, winning the bronze in 49.45 seconds. Now, instead of going four lengths of the pool, is she is going two.
Her seed time of 23.19 seconds is just ahead of Franklin Regional sophomore Alyssa Ruffing (23.36) and Wilson sophomore Alexandra Rockett (23.42).
"The length of a finger," Daum said. "If Emily has a good start and can get away like she did in the 100 last year, she only has to go two lengths instead of four. I know it’s Emily’s goal to get in the 22’s and I think it’s in her to do. Stay tuned for Wednesday."
Wednesday, of course, will also be the day for the 200 medley and 200 free relays to compete. The medley relay already has an All-American consideration time with its 1:48.69, and the 200 free relay, which won Warwick’s first-ever State relay medal last year by taking eighth in 1:38.00, is knocking on the door with its time of 1:38.56. The foursome of Brubaker, Cameron, Freeman and Haney set the school record of 1:37.97 in the State 200 free relay prelims last year.
"Part of the neat part about (Emily) is I think she is as, if not more excited, for the relays," Daum said. "She really gets pumped up for the relays."
Schouten was battling a sickness at the District Three Championships, but the Lady Warriors were hoping that she continued making progress up to Wednesday’s relay.
"Maddie is getting better health-wise," Daum said. "We’re hoping she has a 50 in her to go. But I don’t have a crystal ball on that one."
Haney, meanwhile, returns for the second year in a row to compete individually. Last year, she qualified in the 50 free, and this year, she is 18th in the 100 free in 52.91 seconds and 28th in the 50 free in 24.62 seconds.
Mitchell is making his first trip to the State Championships, where he is seeded 24th in the 500 free in 4:45.93 and 27th in the 200 free in a time of 1:45.58.
"That’s all we’re hoping for is just to go and get experience and look forward to doing well," Daum said. "I think Justin feels he can do a little bit better time-wise than he did at Districts. But going there and being able to walk away not intimidated, overwhelmed and so forth … Being only a sophomore for a boy, it hopefully is going to be a very positive experience for him."
It will be an interesting experience for all of the Triple-A swimmers competing in the Wednesday-Thursday format, rather than Friday and Saturday as they did in 2011.
Asked about his thoughts competing mid-week, Daum said, " The Wednesday-Thursday format is the toughest of the two to do. I firmly believe in circadium rhythms … you’ve been in school and normally on a Wednesday at 8 o’clock when the preliminaries are held, they’re in first-period class. And now you’re probably saying, ‘What are you doing? You’re supposed to get up and race and go fast?’ … If you know it and can be ready, you can maybe jump ahead of some people. Our medley relay is going to be in the first heat, the first event. So there’s no waiting. They blow the whistle and we’re going." More BIG STAGE, page B-6