Silver saves the best for last

Emily Silver will make the trip to Long Beach for Olympic trials next summer. - RYAN SCHIERLING/Staff Photo
Emily Silver will make the trip to Long Beach for Olympic trials next summer.
— image credit: RYAN SCHIERLING/Staff Photo

Bringing up the rear is a daunting task in any relay event -- if you’re in the lead, you’ve got to maintain. If you are in second place, you’re playing catch-up.

It is stressful. It can be nerve-wracking. Sometimes it’s a heavy burden to bear. But at the U.S. National Swimming Championships in College Park, Md., Emily Silver handled it, well, rather swimmingly.

The Bainbridge High senior anchored the Irvine Novaquatics 400-medley relay team to a national title against some of the fastest swimmers in the United States.

The meet, officially dubbed the 2003 Conoco-Phillips Summer National Championships, is the country’s largest swim meet of the summer.

The Novaquatics team started off the final event of the meet in seventh place, but moved into second with the breaststroke and butterfly portions of the relay.

Silver bolted off the blocks slightly behind University of Georgia All-American swimmer Samantha Arsenault, but blew past the 2000 Olympic swim team member in the first 25 meters and never looked back.

“I didn’t even see her go off,” Silver said. “I saw her at the last 50 coming back when I decided to breathe, and thought, ‘What am I doing breathing? I’ve got to swim.’”

When coach David Salo told her she’d clocked a 55.5, Silver was stunned. Her freestyle split was as fast as one of the relay swimmers for the U.S. team at last month’s World Championships.

“I was just swimming,” said Silver, grinning humbly.

Silver has been training with the southern California club for the last three years -- after a brief family move to Orange County prompted the need for a new place to swim. Both Silver and older sister Helen submitted their times to Salo, and were accepted to the prestigious club team that is regarded as the best non-collegiate team in the nation.

“It’s intense,” said Silver of the training regimen that occupies her entire summer vacation time. “But it’s obviously paid off.”

Obviously. She finished the 2002 season ranked 15th in the U.S. and 81st in the world in the 50-meter freestyle, and 38th in the U.S. in the 100-meter freestyle.

Silver had already qualified to compete in the 50 freestyle at the 2004 U.S. Olympic Team time trials next July in Long Beach, Calif., and added a qualification in the 100 free on the trip to College Park.

And with the opportunity to represent the United States at the 2004 Summer Games in Athens, Greece, the 17-year-old has entertained the thought of moving to California half-way through the year to concentrate on her training.

“It’s the Olympic trials,” said Silver. “How many opportunities like this am I going to have?”

The BHS senior will return to Team Ray as co-captain when Spartan swim practices begin next week, and will defend her three-time state titles in both the 50- and 100-yard freestyle events -- a feat no other woman swimmer has duplicated in the history of the Washington state meet.

“I’ve trained hard enough to do it, and I’ll go into it with an open mind,” she said.

“If it happens, it happens.”

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