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Cameron claims District gold in 100 breast, 200 I.M. Two relays, Haney also qualify for PIAA Meet
By: BRUCE MORGAN Record Express Sports Editor, Staff Writer
Warwick senior Emily Cameron and underdog are words that don’t go together when it comes to swimming.
Based on her seed time going into the 100 breaststroke at the District Three Triple-A Championships last Saturday, however, the 12-time All-American wasn’t exactly the favorite.
That distinction was held by number one-seeded Vivi Tafuto of Hershey, who had a time of 1:05.13, nearly two and a half seconds in front of fifth-seeded Cameron (1:07.58).
"Vivi was seeded first and I was the underdog," Cameron said, "so it gave me a little bit more confidence to go in there and show them what I’m made of."
That’s exactly what she did.
Touching the wall first in the 100 breaststroke in 1:03.36, Cameron won her second individual gold medal of the meet — and the seventh District gold of her illustrious career — at Cumberland Valley High School. She also took home top honors in the 200 Individual Medley on Friday night, in addition to competing with the bronze medal-winning and State qualifying 200 medley and 400 free relay teams. With its time of 3:34.0, the 400 free relay also shattered the school record of 3:37.36, previously held by Erica Pakkala, Whitney Moose, Layne Eidemiller and Ashley Singer.
More importantly to the foursome of Morgan Haney, Emily Griest, Emily Wyand and Cameron, they also grabbed the third and final automatic berth to States, set for March 13-16 at Bucknell University. For both Griest and Wyand, this will mark their first trip to the PIAA State Championships.
"We were just focused on trying to get to States," Cameron said. "Two of those girls have never been there, so it’s huge for them. And to take two relays to States, and one (the 400 free) that hasn’t been to States in God knows how long, it’s pretty awesome."
Haney will join Cameron at States as an individual qualifier. The Warwick junior earned a trip to Bucknell for the second straight year after placing fifth in the 50 free (24.00) and seventh in the 100 free (52.62).
"(Morgan’s 50 free) was outstanding," Warwick coach Mark Daum said. "She did a great, great swim. Lifetime best time. Her goal was to break 24.0. Well, you can’t get much closer than that. I told her to use press-on nails next time."
Griest and senior Maddie Schouten fell just short of adding to Warwick’s individual medal haul at Districts. Griest, who also scored points with a 12-place finish in the 200 freestyle (1:57.43), took ninth in the 500 free in 5:13.31 and Schouten was ninth in the 100 breaststroke in 1:08.29. The top eight finishers received medals.
It was Cameron, of course, who set the pace in the 100 breaststroke, even if she had to do it from lane two, and not her customary lane four, which gets awarded to the No. 1 seed.
"Lane two is a great lane to be in, just like lane four," Cameron said. "My favorite number is four, it always has been since I was little. I’m sure that has something to do with the fastest lane in swimming being four, but whatever lane I’m in, it works. I’ll make it work for me."
It certainly didn’t affect her on the opening 50, when she touched in a fast split of 28.7 seconds. She didn’t have a lot of breathing room, though, with Tafuto and Hershey’s Carly DeLiberty close on her heels.
If Cameron was tempted to get a peak at how close they were, she resisted it.
"You don’t look during breaststroke," she said. "Main rule. Just look straight ahead and hopefully you’re ahead of everyone."
In the end, Cameron was, in fact, ahead of everyone, getting to the wall in 1:03.36, which was less than a second in front of Tafuto (1:03.94).
"I died a little bit on the last 25, that’s to be expected at this point, so hopefully I’ll be a little bit more stronger once I get to States," Cameron said. "The time wasn’t exactly where I wanted it to be, but for Districts, my goal was just to go out there and win it. I knew Vivi was going to give me a tough race, she’s a great competitor, so the time that came out of it was solid."
Her time was actually just a second slower than her District gold-medal winning time from last year (1:02.34). But it still puts her in solid shape going into States as the number two seed behind only Pine Richland senior Kristen Murslack, who won the District Seven crown in 1:02.68.
"It just kinda takes the pressure off of me," Cameron said of being the No. 2 seed.
She currently holds the State record in the 100 breaststroke in 1:00.54, which was set at last year’s PIAA Championships. Time will tell what unfolds at Bucknell University.
"Well, that minute barrier is there," Cameron said. "I’m not saying I want to go that because a lot of things have gone into play this year, obviously … I’m not going to jinx myself. I’m just going to go out there my senior year and enjoy myself and whatever happens, happens."
Riding the adrenaline rush from winning the 100 breaststroke, Cameron quickly turned her sights to the 400 free relay after a short break. Haney led off with a split of 53.11 seconds, followed by Wyand (55.32) and Griest (55.10), setting up Cameron for the anchor leg.
When she dove into the pool, the Warwick senior had some ground to make up to pull the Lady Warriors into the third-place spot for the automatic berth. Going up against her friend Meaghan Raab of Hershey helped her cause, and with Cameron’s split of 50.47, the Warwick foursome edged Dover (3:34.85) for the bronze medal.
A year ago, Red Lion won the District bronze in a time 3:36.51.
"I’m not going to lie, I knew we had a pretty large chance of making States once I looked at the results last year," Cameron said. "I will admit I was a little nervous going into the last 100 seeing that we were pretty much tied for third with about seven other teams. I knew I was going to have to go pretty darn fast to get that automatic bid into States and we got it and I couldn’t be happier."
Cameron was also happy to earn the gold medal in Friday’s 200 I.M. in 2:02.28, building a two-second advantage on the runner-up, Amber McDonnell (2:04.48), of Hempfield.
"I’m happy with (my time) for right now," she said. "It’s not the greatest. I was kinda hoping for a 2:01, but obviously that’s not even a second away. I’ll take it for right now."
Knowing that Murslack had already won the District Seven gold in the 200 I.M. in 2:01.99, Cameron had also been hoping to overtake her for the number one seed at States. Unfortunately, her time was less than half a second short of Murslack’s.
"That was in the back of my head," Cameron acknowledged, "but we’re also really good friends, so in the end, we’ll end up feeding off each other once we get to States and race each other and stuff. I’m not too worried about it at this point. It kinda takes the pressure off to go in seeded second."
Make no mistake, she will be trying to improve her split in the breaststroke as she prepares for her final trip to States. Cameron touched the wall in 35.66 seconds on her breaststroke leg on Friday night.
"That’s bad," Cameron said. "Normally, my breaststroke leg comes together when I’m fully rested and suited up and stuff. I’m just going to have to wait for it to all put itself together once States rolls around."
"That’s the one she said she needs to improve," Daum added. "She’d probably like to be splitting 33 or 32 (seconds)."
The Lady Warriors’ 200 medley relay foursome of Cameron, Schouten, Brianna Olivieri and Haney showed nice improvement while grabbing the bronze and an automatic State berth in 1:49.14. While edging Dover (1:49.89) for third, Warwick shaved more than two seconds off its seed time (1:51.45).
"Absolutely unbelievable," Daum said. "Fourth place to third place with Dover in there and their horses and everything … I didn’t tell them, but District One and District Seven swam (Thursday) and their times were amazing, so our only hope I thought was to get top three and an automatic berth and they did it. So hopefully we can keep it going."
Warwick’s foursome of Schouten, Haney, Tara Freeman and Cameron qualified last year in 1:48.69, but Olivieri stepped into the shoes left behind by Freeman and stepped up with a solid time in the butterfly leg.
"I knew after Maddie’s great breaststroke leg and then when Brianna dropped from her League time in the fly leg, I knew Morgan would just bring it home (in the freestyle)," Cameron said. "It’s a great (team) to be with."
Cameron is optimistic that they can drop more time at the State Meet.
"I definitely think I can go faster in the backstroke split, especially," she said. "I’m not really a 50 backstroker. I try to go in there and give it all I have, and sometimes I just spin water rather than moving it. So once I get to States, I’m going to really try to get my split down. I think that’s really going to help out because all the other girls have been phenomenal."
Haney dropped 43-hundredths of a second in the 50 free on her way to placing fifth in 24.00 seconds, and she shaved nearly a second from her seed time in the 100 free (53.54) to finish seventh in the 100 free.
As a team, the Warwick girls placed fourth in the team standings with 153 points. L-L rival Hempfield was third with 208, placing behind team champ Hershey (390) and runner-up Wilson (228).
"We didn’t have a 200 free relay (Friday) and Hempfield did, so that hurt us," Cameron said. "But we beat them at Leagues and that was great for us and I think we’re happy with that. We still have States, we still have a chance to beat them there. We’ll see what happens." More CAMERON, page B-4