By John Lohn
IRVINE, California, August 1. SHE knows about the history. It’s the type of knowledge that easily filters into the mind when you train on a daily basis at a club that has produced numerous Olympians in your prime event. But, rather than find herself intimidated by the accomplishments of her predecessors at Germantown Academy Aquatic Club, Alicia Aemisegger has embraced her standing as the latest 400 individual medley standout produced by the Southeastern Pennsylvania program.
The names read like a who’s who of medley standouts. Dave Wharton. Erika Hansen. Maddy Crippen. All have trained under the watch of legendary coach Dick Shoulberg, recently named the head coach of the United States squad that will compete later this month at the World Youth Championships. Aemisegger is carrying the torch for the club that was formerly known as Foxcatcher.
As the United States Nationals started Tuesday morning at the William Woollett Aquatic Center, Aemisegger kicked off her meet in strong fashion with a fourth-place performance in the preliminaries of the 200 individual medley. Aemisegger clocked in at 2:15.39, a splendid outing for an athlete whose strongest event is the longer version of the medley.
Yet, there’s more to the story. In May, Aemisegger was diagnosed with Lyme disease, an illness that certainly threatened to affect the biggest summer of her career. Drained from the ailment, Aemisegger struggled during workouts, prompting Shoulberg in ask what was wrong. With the help of USA Swimming’s doctors, she found out and remedied the problem.
“With everything that happened, I’m really pleased with that swim,” Aemisegger said. “I tried to stay positive and put the doubts out of my mind. It feels good to bounce back. At first, I thought I just had bug bites. But I started going real slow during practice and knew there was something wrong. It took about three or four weeks to get back because the medication affected me, too.”
Although Kate Ziegler was named Swimming World’s High School Female Swimmer of the Year, based on a pair of national-scholastic records, Aemisegger rated among the finest high schoolers in the land. Aside from rating second nationally in the 200-yard individual medley, the Princeton University recruit ranked second in the 500 free. She also helped Germantown set a national high school record in the 400 freestyle relay and had national-caliber times in the 100 free, 200 free, 100 butterfly and 100 breaststroke.
A member of the United States squad that competed at the World Short Course Championships in Shanghai, China in April, Aemisegger earned valuable experience at the international level. She’s seeking further experience leading up to her ultimate goal, securing a berth to the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. As for these Nationals, Aemisegger is chasing a bid to the Pan Pacific Championships and a possible invitation to next year’s World Champs.
“It’s a big relief to start like this,” she said. “Shoulberg definitely sets an I.M. training base. We might not like it, but we know we’re going to have the strength to get through it. It was great to get international experience, to see what something like that felt like. It’s something I can use in the future.”
Aemisegger wasn’t the only Germantown swimmer to click in the morning as the Crippen sisters, Teresa and Claire, both posted lifetimes best times. Teresa, the younger Crippen, was 12th in prelims and made the consolation final in 2:17.45. As for Claire, she was 27th in 2:18.98.
“”We talk about the tradition,” Shoulberg said. “The girls know about the kids who came before them. No matter what kind of meet, to swim a lifetime best is encouraging. They’re a magnificent group. I’m really proud of Alicia, to come back from what she had.”