West Xtra: Beaver senior hunting medals at PIAA meet

SWIMMING

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The high school swimming postseason has given Beaver Area senior Cameron Clerici many stories to tell.

At the WPIAL championships, Clerici finished first in both the 50- and 100-yard freestyle races in the Class AA boys competition.

In the 50-yard race, the win was not as easy as it sounds. Clerici had flubbed his flip turn.

"As soon as I came off the wall, I came off on my side," he said. "I could see [Charleroi's] Luke Simpson was ahead of me by, like, a body length."

Beaver coach Dana Tabay admitted to being a little nervous: "I thought, 'OK, Cam, you have to dig down deep and find the strength and pull through in this event."

But Tabay knew that Clerici had what it would take to win.

"Cameron has the ability to -- in his last 25 [yards] -- to pull through. I don't ever get too nervous."

Clerici didn't get too nervous, either.

"I watched the video a couple times," Clerici said. "[Simpson] was ahead of me for the first half of the second 25 ... I caught him just at the end."

Clerici recorded a time of 21.19 in the 50-yard event. In the 100, Tabay noted that Clerici did not have as close a competition. He won with a time of 47.40.

Clerici felt he owed his 100-yard performance to the same thing that won his 50 -- a big push in the last 25 yards.

"[Winning the 100] definitely wasn't really that easy," he said. "You have to push really hard to get ahead at the end. It wasn't really that close, but on my third 25 [right before the 75-yard mark] I looked to my right and there was somebody right with me in lane one.

"At WPIALs there's never a race where there's inherently no competition. The only way that you end up beating somebody by a lot is if you just push harder than anybody in the last 25."

With the knowledge that Clerici's strength is in his kick, his Bobcats coaches and teammates won't be surprised if he wins a state title. He is seeded second in the 50-yard freestyle for the PIAA Class AA Championships which began Wednesday and will continue through today at Bucknell University's Kinney Natatorium in Lewisburg.

"I really want this 50 [championship]," he said.

"We're going to be greedy," Tabay said. "Cameron wants that [championship] for himself as much any athlete would who puts that much determination in his craft, his sport. We want the 50."

Like many swimming teams slated for state competition, Clerici and his teammates have begun to "taper" -- a time when rest periods are frustratingly long for an ambitious athlete. Tabay helps the athletes to stay energized using a high-tempo club mix of music. The team has its own ways to enjoy the taper, too.

"Pirate ship ..." said Clerici. "That is where we have a big hot tub -- it's just a big plastic tub that the divers use to put hot water in during diving practice -- we put it in the pool and sail around in it."

As Clerici works through tapered practices and state competition, he looks to the future.

"After states I'm going to take a break and run track," he said. "Over the summer, I will train with my [swim] club in preparation for next year."

Clerici will begin as a college swimmer next season with Denison University, an NCAA Division III program in Ohio. He intends to study to become a financial advisor.

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