Em … for marvelous Cameron finishes her career with two more PIAA State golds

By on March 20, 2013

By: BRUCE MORGAN Record Express Sports Editor, Staff Writer

Photo by Preston WhitcraftRacing without goggles last Saturday in the PIAA State Triple-A girls 100 breaststroke finals, Warwick senior Emily Cameron cuts through the water on her way to a gold-medal finish in 1:02.15 at Bucknell University's Kinney Natatorium. It was the final individual race of her high school career, one in which she finished with seven State golds and one State bronze.

As Emily Cameron touched the wall in her final high school individual event last Saturday night, Warwick swimming coach Mark Daum just watched in awe.

After placing first in the girls 200 Individual Medley in 2:02.28 on Friday night, the Warwick senior concluded her extraordinary scholastic career by winning gold in the 100 breaststroke in 1:02.15.

"Emily is officially a legend," Daum said to a reporter as he walked past on the pool deck.

There’s no arguing that.

With her two firsts last weekend at Bucknell University’s Kinney Natatorium, Cameron added her sixth and seventh PIAA golds to a showcase which also includes one bronze medal from the 100 free as a sophomore. She will leave the halls of Warwick with three golds in the 100 breaststroke, three golds in the 200 I.M. and one gold in the 50 free.

"That’s rarified air when somebody accomplishes that," Daum said. "The stats are probably somewhere, but how many people have won seven individual golds? Legends are made after your body of work is finished, and that’s quite a body of work."

By the way, that body of work also includes three State records for Cameron in the 200 I.M. (1:57.74 in 2011), the 100 breast (1:00.54 in 2012) and the 50 free (22.75 in 2012).

Afterward, standing in a hallway of the Sojka Pavilion, Cameron was a bit emotional while reflecting on the past four years.

"I don’t really have words to put into it just because, as a seventh-grader and an eighth-grader, I don’t think I ever expected this," said Cameron, still dripping water in her blue high-tech suit. "It just kinda all played its cards out as it went on. And it all just happened. It’s crazy and I can’t believe it’s finally coming to an end. Four years, I never believed they would fly by and they definitely did."

Warwick junior Justin Mitchell might be saying the same thing next year. He, too, had a very successful trip to Bucknell last Friday and Saturday, reaching the B-finals in both the boys 200 free and 500 free, where he placed 10th (1:42.71) and 12th (4:39.20), respectively.

Junior Morgan Haney advanced to the B-finals in the girls 50 free on Friday and ended up 11th in 24.14 seconds.

For Cameron, in addition to all her achievements in the pool, she has a good story to tell from her final individual event. During the morning prelims, her goggles fell off her face as she hit the water, so in the break prior to the finals, Cameron decided to go retro.

She had previously swam goggle-less with her Lancaster Aquatic Club team during a meet in January and had some success, which inspired her for Saturday’s 100 breaststroke.

"(Club coach) Casey (Coble) and I had a bet that if I went under a certain time, I could scratch the 200 fly, which is the worst event long-course," Cameron remarked. "I didn’t actually get that time, but I came real close to it and the fact that I didn’t have goggles on and I got close to it made me really confident. I was like, ‘It’s my last meet, it’s my last race of my high school career.’ And not only did I have fun doing it, but I had fun doing it without goggles on."

Cameron entered the 100 breaststroke A-finals as the No. 2 seed after finishing the prelims in 1:02.83. But to the surprise of no one, she led after the opening 50 yards with a time of 28.78, nearly one second in front of Hershey sophomore Vivi Tafuto (29.73).

As the swimmers headed for home, both Tafuto and Hershey senior Carly DeLiberty made a push to reel in Cameron, but to no avail. Cameron’s winning time of 1:02.15 was less than half a second ahead of Tafuto, who took the silver 1:02.55. DeLiberty took the bronze medal in 1:03.13.

"I had no idea where anybody else was, so please don’t ask me that," Cameron laughed. "That was part of the thing I liked about not having goggles on was the fact that I had no idea where anybody else was … I was hoping that I could get out and get ahead. When I came up to breathe on my last lap, I could see Vivi out of my left eye a little bit, but just barely. I knew she was going to come on the last 25. Honestly, I wanted to go close to my best time, but I’m very happy that I won. Just to say that I was able to do that without goggles on is fun and cool."

Her goggles were back on, however, for the 400 free relay, which she swam with Haney, Brianna Olivieri and Emily Wyand.

"There’s a lot of splashing and I didn’t want to screw up three other people’s swims," Cameron said. "I didn’t want to put any bad swims on them."

The Lady Warriors’ foursome advanced to the B-finals 15th in 3:35.92, just off their seed time of 3:34.00. Ultimately, they ended up finishing 16th in 3:38.68.

During Friday’s morning session, Cameron locked up the top seed in the 200 I.M. in 2:03.63, just ahead of Parkland junior Megan Polaha (2:04.03). It was actually Polaha who held the early lead through the butterfly and backstroke, finishing those two legs in 57.02 seconds — barely in front of Cameron’s 57.26. But Cameron overtook her in the breaststroke and never relinquished the lead, outsprinting her friend Kristen Murslack, a Pine Richland senior, to the wall in 2:00.62. Murslack took the silver in 2:01.53, followed by Greater Latrobe’s Kayla Owens, who won the bronze in 2:03.11, and Polaha (2:03.33).

Despite winning the gold, however, Cameron had higher goals for her time. With Coble in attendance at Kinney Natatorium, she was looking to break 2:00 one final time.

"I was a little disappointed with it," admitted Cameron, a University of Georgia recruit. "I really did want to go under two minutes for (Coble) because the first two years, he wasn’t here and last year I didn’t swim it. But I’m not going to dwell on it. It was a good swim for right now, but hopefully I’ll be able to drop that time a lot the next four years."

Regardless of what happens at Georgia, however, Cameron will take a lot of great memories with her from her days at Warwick. Tops among them will be breaking the 2:00 barrier for the first time in the 200 I.M. as a freshman, and then of course, winning the gold in the 100 breaststroke in her final individual event.

"When I broke two minutes for the first time, Mark (Daum) was like, ‘You’re going to remember this moment and then you’re going to remember your last swim,’" Cameron recalled. "I didn’t really think anything of it when I was a freshman. But when I was standing there with him (after the 100 breast), I was like, ‘He’s right.’ I’m going to be able to look back on this in like 20 years and (think), ‘Wow, that was pretty cool.’ I didn’t want it to be my last race because it’s been fun. It’s been a very fun four years."

Mitchell certainly had a lot of fun last weekend, recording lifetime best times in both the 200 free and 500 free.

The Warwick junior made the trip to Bucknell University seeded 14th in the 200 free in 1:43.05. In the prelims, Mitchell got the 16th and final spot for the B-finals in 1:43.66 — just ahead of Parkland’s Christopher Strauss (1:43.74). But he dropped nearly a second off that time while placing 10th in the finals in a time of 1:42.91.

That was a step in the right direction for Mitchell, who placed in a tie for 26th last year in the 200 free prelims in 1:46.45 and failed to advance to the finals.

"I’m tickled to death with him," Daum said. "I couldn’t ask for anything more than that."

"I felt really good in the 200 finals," Mitchell remarked. "It’s always nice to feel good in the finals."

Mitchell also felt really good for Saturday’s 500 freestyle. In fact, his time of 4:38.09 in the prelims was not only three seconds faster than his District time (4:41.06), it also punched his ticket to the B-finals as the 10th seed.

"Anytime you do your liftime best time, whether by a tenth or a hundred seconds, you can’t ask for more than that," Daum said.

A few hours later, Mitchell carried that momentum into the B-finals and was on pace to drop more time through the first 300 yards, posting a time of 2:43.22 while holding the runner-up spot behind only State College junior Bradley Gibble (2:43.02).

But the Warwick junior just ran out of gas over the final 200 yards on his way to a 12th-place finish in 4:39.20. Still, that was an improvement over last year’s finish, when he took 15th in 4:43.82 in the finals.

"The first 300 was the race of his life," Daum said.

"I definitely agree with that," Mitchell said, "because I felt really good. I said to Mark, ‘If I had to do it again, I’d probably do it the same way.’ I don’t think if I would have went any slower that it would have changed anything … As I was warming up, I felt really fast so I thought, ‘I’ve got to go for it and go pretty fast.’ That’s what I did and then all of a sudden, at about 300, it just hit me and I kinda slowed down there at the end. But I’m still happy with it. I was hoping to get to the A-final for the 500. That was my goal for this year. I’m not going to beat myself up about it because I still dropped three seconds from my time last year, so I’m pretty happy with it."

Ditto for Daum.

"Both his 200 and his 500, he came up and did his best time and finaled in both of them," Daum said. "Last year, he only finaled in the 500."

For Mitchell, it raises the bar for what his goals will be in his senior season.

"I think next year, my goal will probably be to get into the A-final for both of my events," he said. "This year, I wasn’t really expecting to do that well in the 200 because last year, I got (tied for 26th). I didn’t final in it. So I was definitely excited to get into the (200 free) final (Friday). Barely squeezed in there, 16th, but I got a spot and that’s all that mattered." More CAMERON, page B-2

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