End of an era

By on March 20, 2013

Talking Sports By

Bruce Morgan One of these days, I’m going to come into the office and have my desk collapse on top of me.

No, not from the weight of empty food wrappers laying around.

Rather, from the volume of sports programs which have been accumulating over the past 20 years or so. I can always justify it by saying, "Well, they’re valuable research tools. How else am I going to know who the returning State qualifiers are in wrestling when it’s time to do a preview article for the following season?" Or, "Hey, without those Warwick baseball programs, where else am I going to find the senior season stats of so-and-so?"

I’m sure that I could throw a lot of them away and not realize that I’m missing them. But there’s a collection of four in particular that I will definitely hold on to for a long time. Those are the PIAA State Swimming Championship programs from 2010 to 2013 spanning the career of Warwick senior Emily Cameron. Or should I say "Warwick legend?"

The programs will occupy a spot in my desk not only for research reasons, but for nostalgia purposes as well; as a reminder of what an incredible era of excellence we all just witnessed in swimming.

Warwick swim coach Mark Daum walked past me on Saturday night after Emily won her seventh and final State individual gold medal and said, "OK, she is officially a legend." I hope he doesn’t mind me sharing that with our readers. But really, it’s not like he is going out on a limb by making that comment. His point was that, how many high school swimmers have ever won seven State golds? Per PIAA rules, the student-athletes are permitted to compete in only two individual events in a given post-season — four total if you include relays. That means eight is the maximum number of individual golds that a swimmer can achieve in his/her career, and she won seven.

Wow.

After being told of Mark’s comments, Emily was asked for her reaction while standing just a few feet away from the pool where she made PIAA history time and time again. "I start to cry a little bit, to be honest," she said. "I don’t really know what to say. I mean, it’s one thing for people to say, ‘Do you know who Emily Cameron is?’ I try to keep that low in my mind. I have so many friends here and I don’t consider myself above any of them."

To be honest, that wasn’t the first time she cried last weekend. And it probably wasn’t the last. "I might cry a little bit on the way home," Emily told Lancaster sports writer Pete Kauffman and myself. "But then I’ll be good."

During her four-year scholastic career at Warwick, Emily was way more than ‘good.’ When that final swim in the 100 breaststroke was in the books, it was only human nature for her to reflect on the journey that started with her winning golds in the 200 I.M. and 100 breaststroke in her freshman season.

But as Mark Daum added, "She is sort of a rarity. Most kids’ senior year, the kids are up here and it’s like, ‘I can’t wait to get out to college. I can’t wait to do that.’ She doesn’t want to see it end, I think, because she wants to be with the kids she knew and the relationships she had and everything else."

Indeed. You get the feeling that those relationships and friendships mean more to her than the gold medals themselves. Not that I like to see anyone cry, but to watch Emily get emotional last Saturday was both sad and refreshing at the same time. It showed the human side of Emily. As Mark said, it showed that she had fun during her high school career.

It might have been easy to think of Emily as a robot at Warwick. She has seven of the eight girls individual swimming records at the school. She currently has three State records … Just wind her up and watch her win, right? Literally, you could probably count on one hand the number of individual races — dual meets, post-season, whatever — that she lost.

But even a robot would probably wear goggles in the pool. That was a neat sidebar to Emily’s final State Championship Meet to see her swim the 100 breaststroke goggle-less, and perhaps add an exclamation point to her career.

I think back to when I swim in the pool without goggles. First of all, I can’t even swim 100 yards without stopping for a refreshment. But when I do, I can’t see two feet in front of me and I just hope that I see the wall before I give myself a migraine.

With swimmers at an elite level like those at States, they have to do all those fancy things like flip-turns at the walls, be aware of their competition and go for really fast times. Not an easy thing to do with no goggles.

But Emily did it last Saturday.

And I have the program to prove it. More ERA, page B-2

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