Eight individual events are in a high school swimming meet, and, truth be told, Palo Verde sophomore Erin Emery doesn’t care for any of them.
“I wish there were longer events,” she said.
Emery is the reigning Sunset Region champion in the 200- and 500-yard freestyle, and she finished in the top three at the state meet in both races. But neither event appeals much to the long-distance specialist, who qualified for the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials in the 800-meter freestyle as a 14-year-old.
“Shorter distances hinder her a little bit,” Palo Verde coach Brent Gonzalez said. “It’s grueling, and you’ve got to have that mindset for it, and she does. She knows where she’s found success, obviously, and it suits her. She knows where she’s successful.”
Emery, expected to add the 1,000- and 1,650-yard freestyle to her plate when she reaches college, qualified for the trials by 0.24 seconds while swimming for the Sandpipers of Nevada club team. She went to Omaha, Neb., knowing she wasn’t in position to qualify for the London Games but still gained valuable big-meet experience.
“Actually going to the Olympic Trials, it just felt unreal, being surrounded by Olympians and the top athletes in the world,” Emery said. “Being in that atmosphere, you just have to take it all in. And it really didn’t sink in being in Olympic Trials until a couple months later when I realized, hey, that went by kind of fast.”
Emery is scheduled to compete in the junior national championships Aug. 5 to 9 in Irvine, Calif. She hopes to qualify for the International Swimming Federation’s world junior championships in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, in late August.
Before that, however, Emery would like to win her first state title. Last year, she was focused on the Olympic Trials and didn’t shave or taper her workouts before the state meet. She finished second to Coronado standout Sammy Harrison in the 200 free and was third in the 500 behind Harrison and Boulder City’s Megan Purdy.
With Harrison now swimming at Oregon State and Purdy competing in Division I-A, Emery will be the one to beat in the 500 free in Division I. Freshman teammate Izzy Goldsmith figures to challenge her in the 200 free.
Along with Goldsmith, the Panthers have several talented freshmen, and Gonzalez is looking for Emery to take on more of a leadership role. He is hopeful Palo Verde, which tied for seventh at state in 2012, can close the gap on three-time defending state champion Bishop Gorman.
“I think Gorman is too strong, but we’re not walking in there waving the white flag,” Gonzalez said. “We have a lot of young talent.”