Watlington brought home gold in swimming
He who goes into the last wall the hardest comes out the fastest.
Whether Freedom's Seth Watlington remembers these as famous last words, or words he will never forget, one thing is for certain: a PIAA State Class AAA Swimming and Diving Championship gold medal in the breaststroke won by the Patriot swimmer this March at Bucknell University.
At the time, Watlington said, "I kind of just came up from when I touched, and I saw the scoreboard because it was right there. It was an overwhelming feeling of joy and adrenaline. It was kind of like a 'Finally!' type thing. I'm just glad I decided to dig in and go for it."
Freedom swimming coach, Barb Glaser, saw everything come together for Watlington that day.
"I was really happy for him. He peaked at the right moment. He's so intent and so insistent that he's not going to come in second," Glaser said.
Perhaps what made the state championship even sweeter for Watlington was that he had been trailing for most of the race.
"I was actually behind until the last five yards, the last three strokes," Watlington said.
Fortunately, those magic words that were spoken to him by a teammate's father, prior to the event, kicked in, and Watlington won the breaststroke by .06 seconds in 55:89.
In addition, Watlington also won a PIAA State medal in the 200 IM, placing eighth in 1:54.52.
Coach Glaser said, "That's the fun part of coaching: when you're standing on the deck and everything you worked for comes together. You know that behind that speed is so much work. I couldn't be prouder."
Glaser had watched the progression of Watlington over four years, noticing the biggest changes during his junior year; then, his senior year.
"Junior year, he was beginning to understand the notion of being on a team. He really, really came around senior year in that regard. He had a way about him that was approachable, soft, and open," said Glaser.
Watlington also had a singular focus that translated into a leadership role.
Glaser explained that teammates would see Watlington performing his workouts on his own, and ask what he was doing.
"To see that kind of individual committment, that was a teachable moment," Glaser said.
Prior to the PIAA State meet, Watlington won District 11 gold in the breaststroke with a time of 56.28, breaking a 2006 district record.
Watlington also won District 11 gold in the 200 IM with a time of 1:54.37.
Glaser said, "This year was the perfect example of total committment to very necessary and difficult training. The psychology of swimming is often overlooked. You can be powerful, but the two have to meet. His head was in the game. He lived and breathed swimming."
At the start of the 2011-2012 season, not only was Watlington preparing for his final year of high school swimming, he was planning for a future at the United States Naval Academy.
"He really stepped up his game. At a Division I school like Navy, you'll be hurting if you don't. He spent a whole year upping his game," said Glaser.
Not only did Watlington need to balance the mental aspect of swimming with the physical, he needed to balance academics with athletics.
"His time committment is unparallelled. Academics is supposed to come first, and for Seth, it did. He was able to work on dryland and in the water, he had a high GPA, and he had a social life. He was setting himself up well for the demands of Navy," said Glaser.
Watlington also holds Freedom's pool record in the breaststroke with a time of 58.43, which was set this season during the Patriots' meet against Emmaus.
"He'd be a good mentor for anybody," Glaser said.
Afterall, he who goes into the last wall the hardest, comes out the fastest.