End of an era: Cameron concludes swimming career by helping Georgia take fourth at NCAAs

By on April 5, 2017
Lititz’s Emily Cameron, shown here competing at the Georgia Fall Invitational last December, finished her career at UGA as an 11-time All-American. Photo courtesy of the University of Georgia

Lititz’s Emily Cameron, shown here competing at the Georgia Fall Invitational last December, finished her career at UGA as an 11-time All-American. Photo courtesy of the University of Georgia

Texas was square in the sights of Lititz’s Emily Cameron and her University of Georgia teammates.

After all, it was the Longhorns who ended the Lady Bulldogs’ streak of 103 straight wins at home in mid-January, pulling out a 171-124 victory.

At the NCAA Divison-One Swimming Championships held March 15-18 at the Indiana University Natatorium, UGA wanted revenge.

And that’s exactly what they got.

With their silver-medal finish in the 400 free relay in a school-record time of 3:08.97 on the final day of competition, the Georgia women locked up fourth place in the team standings with 252.5 points — one-half point ahead of the Longhorns (252).

This marked the ninth straight year that the Lady Bulldogs have captured a top-five finish, including NCAA championships in 2013, 2014 and 2016.

“It was incredible,” said Cameron, a senior at the University of Georgia and a 2013 Warwick High School grad. “I think that feeling of clinching fourth by half a point almost beat the feeling last year of clinching the National title. I mean, the whole meet was just a testament to how hard we work, I think, as a team and I think we came a long way from the Texas meet in January. We were just focusing on the little things as we approached championship season and I think the stars aligned for that last relay. I was ecstatic, all the coaches were jumping up and down. It was definitely a moment to remember.”

Cameron’s career in the pool has absolutely been one to remember, starting from her days at Warwick when she claimed seven PIAA golds and 12-time All-American status, then continuing at UGA where she contributed to two NCAA team titles in addition to earning 11-time All-American honors and the third-fastest 400 Individual Medley team (4:03.61) in program history.

It ended with her finishing 27th in the 200-yard butterfly on Saturday.

Upon stopping the clock in a time of 1:56.93, Cameron’s emotions overcame her.

“I looked up at my parents (Paul and Lisa) and they were both crying, and I obviously started crying and my teammates all came over and hugged me,” said Cameron, who was honored as a First-Team All-American in NCAA Division-One Swimming and Diving in 2016-17. “But it’s almost a sense of relief because all the anxiety that comes with being behind the blocks and wanting to do so well for your teammates, I mean, that’s all over now. Now I just get to be on the supportive end of things. I couldn’t have been happier, but it was a bittersweet emotion, for sure.”

Besides competing in the 200 fly at this year’s NCAA Meet, Cameron swam the breaststroke legs of the school record-breaking 200 free relay (1:26.49) and 400 medley relay (3:28.00) teams, which placed third and sixth, respectively. She also finished 10th in the 400 I.M. (4:05.11) and 15th in the 200 I.M. (1:56.43).

Tennessee freshman Meghan Small, of York, edged her for ninth place (4:04.30) in the 400 I.M.

“It was kinda funny to go round-robin,” Cameron said, “and end up racing somebody from PA, and it literally came down to the last touch. So it was a really, really fun race.”

What left Cameron with the best memories, however, was her part on three relays. She also helped the 200 medley relay place ninth in 1:35.99.

“I just love the feeling of racing beside your three teammates that are working just as hard for the place that you are,” said Cameron, who also received the Jack Bauerle Endowed Scholarship Fund, an award honoring UGA’s head coach who has led the Lady Bulldogs to seven National titles in the past 15 years. “I think that was probably the best feeling, and especially since we got third place in the 200 freestyle relay — that was really awesome. The individual races were great, but it’s not the same feeling as being on a relay.”

The NCAA Meet capped a whirlwind year for Cameron, who competed last summer at the Olympic Trials for the second time in her career, capturing an eighth-place medal in the 200 Individual Medley in 2:14.16. She took about five weeks off following the Trials, but came back strong with her training for her senior season, serving as a co-captain for the Lady Bulldogs in 2016-17.

“My motto since I’ve been, like, 10 years old has been to have fun,” Cameron said, “and I tried to take that to another whole level at this meet and I got to go out on top. At least in our minds, fourth place was pretty much on top with four amazing seniors. And it was the icing on the cake to clinch (fourth place) by point-five … I’ve done everything I could’ve wished to in this sport, so clinching that last relay by that much just put everything together.”

It’s not only in the pool that Cameron has been a role model and leader. She is the Vice-President of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and was chosen by the UGA coaches the past two years as the Lady Bulldogs’ representative for the SEC Good Works Team. She is also involved in the Humane League and will be going to Costa Rica on a mission trip with a leadership group this summer.

“It’s definitely benefitted me to be out in the community,” Cameron said, “because I think the thing that I’ve taken most out of my time here is the relationships that I’ve built with people that are outside athletics. Ultimately, networking is huge and I’ve met so many amazing people that would have nothing to do with swimming, and if I hadn’t stepped outside my comfort zone, I probably never would have met them. So that’s been really helpful.;”

Although her eligibility in swimming is completed, she will be a fifth-year senior at UGA in 2017-18 working toward her degree in Political Science and International Affairs.

Understandably, it hasn’t quite set in yet that her swimming career is finished.

“I’m just enjoying the retirement life now,” Cameron laughed. “… It’s very weird. I mean, I’ve only been done for a week and a half or so, but I started working out the Tuesday after I got back, like running and so forth.”

She didn’t miss a beat this past Saturday, April 1 while completing the Chick-fil-A Half-Marathon in Athens, Ga. in 1:37.

That’s just the start of what the next chapter in Cameron’s life is going to be.

“I think I’m going to start the transition to the triathlon pretty quickly,” said Cameron, who admitted that she is already has her mind on the 2020 and 2024 Olympics in that event. “I’m not really retired … I would get bored.”

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