Gemmell nabs third at juniors

Posted: Sunday, March 26, 2000

After the crowd at the Bartlett High School pool in Anchorage made a ton of noise for Joshua Gemmell, the Soldotna junior went out and made some noise of his own.

Gemmell placed third Friday in the 100-yard breaststroke at the USA Swimming Junior Championships West meet. The meet includes over 700 of the top junior, or under 19, swimmers from the western part of the United States.

The West meet is one of three regional meets held simultaneously throughout the United States. When taking into account times from the other two region meets, Gemmell's performance puts him 14th in the country, and third among 15- and 16-year-olds.

Also Friday, the peninsula's other entrant in the meet, Soldotna junior Lucas Petersen, finished 15th in the 100 butterfly.

It is unique for Alaska to host a swimming meet of the caliber of the Junior Championships, and Gemmell said the crowd was more than up to the task.

"It was awesome because when they called out Alaska swimmers, the place went nuts," said Gemmell, who was swimming for the Soldotna Silver Salmon club team. "They went off their rocker."

Gemmell got a double experience of the crowd's enthusiasm before his final in the 100 breaststroke. Gemmell came into the final with the third-best preliminary time, while Anchorage 18-year-old Quincey Schmidt had the top qualifying time.

Gemmell said the roaring of the crowd started when the two Alaskans made their way out of a waiting room and into the view of the crowd.

But that was only the start. Their names still had to be announced.

"When they announced my name, it was the loudest I've ever heard it at the Bartlett pool," Gemmell said. "When Quincey's name was announced, it went to a whole new level.

"They were going insane for the Alaska swimmers. It gets you pumped up."

In fact, it may have gotten the 16-year-old Gemmell a little too pumped up. In the finals, he was clocked at 57.73 seconds, while Schmidt won with a 57.08 and 16-year-old Hawaiian Caleb Rowe was second with a 57.43.

Gemmell's time in the final was slower than his preliminary time of 57.62 seconds.

"I tried to go at Quincey right away," Gemmell said. "My tempo was faster than it should have been. I didn't swim my own race, I swam somebody else's race."

Gemmell's time also was not good enough to make the Olympic trials, which was his goal. To do that, he would have had to rip off a 56.29.

"It didn't faze me at all that I didn't make it," Gemmell said. "It was just a goal, and I like to set my goals really high."

Tuesday, Gemmell also had success in a time trial for the 200 breaststroke. He turned in a 2:06.71 to break the Alaska state record for 15- and 16-year-olds.

While it was Gemmell's first time at the Junior Championships, Petersen was making an appearance for the second time after competing at the same event in Seattle last year.

Petersen, who is 16, said he did a lot better this year than last year. His preliminary time in the 100 butterfly was 51.88, and put him at 15th. He kept that place by swimming a 52.14 in the final.

"I went out long and strong," Petersen said. "I felt pretty good."

Silver Salmon coach Sohail Marey said one of the nice things about the meet was the way Alaska came together.

"The fans from the state were behind all the Alaska swimmers," Marey said. "Usually, they're our competitors, but all of a sudden the Alaska swimmers are one gigantic family.

"It's a great feeling."

Marey also said the accomplishments are deserved for Petersen and Gemmell, who are getting ready to play soccer in the spring for Soldotna High School.

"It was a great day for our club," Marey said. "Joshua and Lucas are very hard-working swimmers.

"These people work year-round to get to this level."

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