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Highlands' Bonnett looks back at record-setting high school swim career

| Tuesday, March 21, 2017, 12:15 a.m.

Bailey Bonnett admitted she isn't into displaying the championship medals she won over the past four years at the WPIAL and PIAA Class AA swimming championships.

With 12 total wins to her credit, all of that hardware would make an impressive display.

But while the Highlands senior is happy to bring home all of those medals for her triumphs — eight individual WPIAL titles and four state crowns — improving her times and swimming fast had always been a priority.

“To be honest, I don't really know where all of them are,” said Bonnett, who captured the 200-yard individual medley and 100-yard breaststroke state titles Thursday and Friday at Bucknell.

“I think my two state (title) medals (from this year) are still in my bag.”

Reflecting on her four years of high school championship swims, Bonnett said she is “happy with how I've grown and matured as a swimmer and working hard on the little things to help me go faster.”

Bonnett had Lauren Barber, a graduate of District 10's Wilmington, in her sights when she stepped onto the block for her 100 breaststroke race Friday afternoon.

Barber had what Bonnett wanted — the state record. Barber set the mark with a 1:01.09 two years ago.

But Bonnett established a blistering pace and posted a record swim of 1:00.84.

Her winning time in the 200 IM (2:00.80) was a nearly four-second improvement from her 2:04.59 at states as a freshman.

Bonnett made a run at the 200 IM state record this year, but her speedy time was still three seconds behind Barber's record of 1:57.76.

She added the 100 breast and 200 IM titles to the 500 free championships captured last year and in 2015.

In addition to her four state titles, Bonnett secured four other state medals during her high school career. She finished with thirds in the 200 IM and 500 free as a freshman and in the 200 IM as a sophomore and a second in the 200 IM last year.

Bonnett said her confidence in her high-level swims all four years also came with a certain degree of nervousness.

From her freshman year on, Bonnett said the nerves were a product of wanting to flawlessly execute every aspect of her races with all that was on the line.

She said the nerves probably will persist as she looks for faster times during her time at Kentucky.

“I came to WPIALs and states as a freshman and really didn't know what to expect,” Bonnett said.

“It was a great learning experience. I remember being excited about swimming good times. I didn't have as many real big meets to that point, nothing like the Grand Prix meets or the Olympic Trials the past couple of years. Every time, it just came down to focusing on my own race and blocking everything else out.”

With all of her individual goals at WPIALs and states over the past four years, Bonnett said it was extra special to share her final PIAA experience with three of her Highlands teammates, including her sister, Breea, a freshman.

Bonnett was the lone Rams female at states her first three years, but this year, she also swam the 200 free relay with Breea, senior Jocelyn Gillette and freshman Rachel Blackburn.

“That was a great experience,” she said. “I was so happy that Jocelyn got the chance to experience the state meet in her final season and that both Breea and Rachel were able to make it in their first years.”

Other freshmen such as Kiski Area's Naomee Miller (200 IM, 100 breast) and Deer Lakes' Renee Robson (50 free, 100 free) and Adam Morrison (500 free) made their PIAA debuts this year.

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at mlove@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Mlove_Trib.

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