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Cameron learns from the Olympic Trials
By: BRUCE MORGAN Record Express Sports Editor email@example.com, Staff Writer
The site of the 2016 Olympic Trials is still to be determined.
One thing is known, however.
Emily Cameron will know what to expect.
The soon-to-be Warwick senior swimmer recently returned from this year’s Olympic Trials in Omaha, Neb., where she competed in the 400 I.M., 200 I.M., 100 breaststroke and 200 breaststroke from June 25 to July 2.
Although Cameron, 17, acknowledged that she didn’t have the meet that she had hoped for, it was an invaluable learning experience for the five-time PIAA State gold-medalist.
"Definitely how to control my emotions and keep my nerves intact (were the biggest things)," said Cameron, who was representing the Lancaster Aquatic Club. "Obviously, I’m still young and stuff, so I have to learn how to just enjoy myself and have fun with it, but still be focused. And I think that’s something that takes time to learn and deal with."
In the 400 long-course meter I.M., Cameron had to finish in the top eight in the preliminaries to advance to the semi-finals. In the 100 and 200 long-course meter events, she had to place top 16 in prelims to move on.
Her best finish was a 21st-place performance in the 200 I.M. in 2:16.49 on Wednesday, June 27. Annie Zhu, of NBAC-MD, grabbed the 16th and final spot in 2:15.75.
"I was five spots away from making it (to the semi-finals), so I was that close to making it back, and I guess I just didn’t have it in the last 10 meters," Cameron said.
Her first-ever event at the Olympic Trials was the 400 I.M. on Monday, June 25, in which she placed 70th overall in 4:56.69. But preparing to swim in front of thousands of people in the CenturyLink Center was an eye-opening moment.
"That was one of my toughest races … more mentally than physically," said Cameron, who was seeded 27th in that event in 4:47.25. "It was my first race at the Olympic Trials and I went up there and tried to have my emotions in check. But it was probably a little bit more overwhelming that I expected it to be because you walk out there for the first race and see about 5,000 people looking at you. Not just specifically you, but that’s all you see."
With that race behind her, Cameron said she had a lot more confidence going into the 100 breaststroke prelims on Tuesday, July 26. It showed in her time, as she nearly equaled her personal best while touching the wall 74th in 1:11.99. Sarah Haase placed 16th in 1:09.39.
"I was right off my best time, which at that point, I was going to take it just because my 400 I.M. obviously wasn’t what I wanted it to be," said Cameron, whose seed time of 1:10.90 had her seeded in 58th place.
That, of course, led to Cameron’s best event — the 200 I.M. — during Wednesday’s action. There, she ended up posting her fastest-ever prelim swim in that event.
"If I had been at a meet like Junior Nationals or something like that, I would’ve easily made it back to top eight and I would have had a second swim and I definitely would’ve gone a best time," Cameron said. "I tried to go into that race with kind of a carefree attitude, just to have fun and enjoy myself. And I tried to put the blinders on, as my coach told me, and it worked."
She ended up finishing 56-hundredths of a second off her 23rd place seed time (2:15.93).
"At that point," Cameron said, "I was like, ‘With this experience, it doesn’t come around very often. So just the fact that I was able to be there competing was a huge honor. From that (standpoint), I was happy with my swim."
Thursday was an off day, but she returned to the pool on Friday for her final event, which was the 200 breaststroke. Unfortunately, it didn’t turn out as she had hoped, finishing 70th in the prelims in 2:37.00. She came into the meet seeded 75th in 2:34.43.
"Mentally, I think I was done," Cameron recalled. "I was there six days at that point, so I wasn’t there a long time, but it was long enough. I think was just ready to come home and recharge."
Through her disappointment, she contemplated on the big picture after returning to Lititz. Cameron said that she talked to a lot of people to help her put things into perspective.
"Obviously, I didn’t have the meet that I had hoped for, but I know that in every swimmer’s past, there’s going to be a meet that they don’t do as well as they want to do," Cameron said. "I’ve completely understood that it’s a one-meet experience and for everyone’s first Olympic Trials, it’s going to be either a fantastic meet or it’s going to be a tough meet and it just happened to be a tough meet."
She saw a statistic from this year’s Olympic Trials that 78 percent of the swimmers were unable to drop their times. That also lent some perspective for Cameron.
"I know that I’m not alone and I know that next time in four years, I’ll be much more prepared for it," she remarked.
Four years from now, of course, Cameron will be enrolled in college and competing at the NCAA level. Currently, she has visits planned to Georgia, USC, Texas and Cal.
At this year’s Olympic Trials, Cameron had the beneift of rooming with her friend, Meaghan Raab, of Hershey. But closer to the time of the 2016 Olympics, which are slated to be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Cameron knows that she will be surrounded by multiple college teammates at the Trials.
"I’ll be four years older and four years wiser," Cameron said. "I’ll be two years into my college career, I’ll be stronger, and I’ll have a team around me that will have multiple kids going. In the end, it’s going to be a whole better experience for me." More CAMERON, page B3