LEWISBURG - "It was a great season" for Warren sophomore swimmer Elin Smith, reflected head coach Jeff Walters after the PIAA Class AAA Swimming Championships on Saturday at Bucknell University.
Smith couldn't do much better than win a District 10 championship in the 100-yard backstroke a couple weeks ago at Penn State Behrend, with a school record time of 59.83 seconds - besting a school record that had stood for 20 years and becoming the Dragons' first D-10 champ since 2008.
Smith was the first Warren Area High School swimmer to break the minute mark in the event,
That said, she was seeded near the bottom of the top PIAA Class AAA swimmers in the state.
Rather than look at it that Smith finished 31st out of 32 PIAA qualifiers on Saturday, Walters chooses to look at the 31st best time in the state.
"That's arguably the fastest swimming state in the nation," said Walters. "That's an awesome accomplishment for anybody.
With Warren Area High School without its own pool, and with only a percentage of time available for its pool and land practice schedule as compared to the top swimming schools in the state, the Dragons "taper" for the district meet. A "taper" is a way of practicing that gradually decreases a workload to try to gain strength and stamina for a swimmer's optimum time. Smith accomplished that at districts, but it's extremely tough to hold a taper for that long.
On Saturday, she finished in 1:02.89 as one of 11 freshmen and sophomores competing.
"I think it was a positive experience all the way around," said Walters. "It wasn't her best time, but after swimming she was smiling and right off the bat she was planning for next year."
The process of practicing over two days and then the meet on Saturday "was overwhelming," but Walters said Smith is used to big venues, having swam in Hong Kong.
After she finished, she and Walters watched the three fastest heats in the state.
"She looked up on the list of teams and, sure enough, Warren was on there," he said.
Walters said Smith realized she wasn't alone at states, but she "was the Warren Dragons down here.
"The kids feed off each other (so they helped push her to get here)," said Walters. "It's going to be even greater next year."