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Freeport's Otwell struggles, fails to medal

| Wednesday, March 13, 2013, 9:36 p.m.

LEWISBURG — Bria Otwell thought for sure she would walk out of the first day of the PIAA Class AA meet with a medal around her neck.

There even was the possibility it could be a gold medal. After all, the Freeport sophomore came into the day as the reigning WPIAL Class AA champion in the 200 individual medley, was seeded fourth overall, and times have a tendency to drop at the state finals at Bucknell's Kinney Natatorium.

Otwell didn't leave with a medal, gold or otherwise. Instead of winning a state championship, she finished 10th after the morning qualifiers then came in last in the consolation swim for a disappointing 16th-place showing.

“My head just isn't in the IM, I guess,” Otwell said. “In the morning, I felt the same as I do now, and I did worse. I just don't feel good. I guess tomorrow is a better day, but this was not my day.”

Otwell, who had a solid seed time of 2 minutes, 8.54 seconds, swam a 2:11.49 in the morning session and followed it up with a 2:14.83 in the consolation heat. As a freshman, she swam a 2:08.20 in the final heat and finished fifth.

“Nothing feels right. My stroke is awful. My turns were awful. Everything felt awful,” Otwell said.

“Maybe it's just a sophomore slump that finally hit me. If I'm not ready, I'm not ready.”

Otwell has an opportunity for redemption as she will swim in the 500 freestyle Thursday on the final day of the Class AA meet. Otwell finished third in the WPIAL in the event behind Elizabeth Forward senior Braelyn Tracy and West Allegheny's Kara Kaulius but is seeded fifth with a qualifying time of 5:04.36.

“I just have to not think about this and put it behind me,” Otwell said. “I lost it in the morning. I was really upset, so I just have to not repeat what I did this morning. I was seeing red, and I have to figure out how to not let it get to me.”

Though quite a few WPIAL girls swimmers posted significant increases in their times, one of the few to record a drop was Morgan Joseph of Kittanning. The junior was the No. 20 seed in the 100 butterfly but moved up to 12th after morning qualifying.

“I was really happy with it,” Joseph said. “I worked really hard at practice, worked with my coach a lot and worked on my start a lot. My start had a lot to do with it.”

Though her time took a dramatic downturn — she went from a WPIAL finish of 1:00.25 to 59.72 seconds in the morning — she came in 16th and last in the consolation heat with a 1:00.31.

“I didn't even expect to make it back for finals coming in seeded 20th,” Joseph said. “But then I found out I was coming back for consolations, and I was proud of it.”

St. Joseph freshman Sabrina Bowman just missed being in that 100 butterfly final as she ended up ninth in the morning with a time of 59.32 seconds, just missing out on the finals by 0.10 seconds.

However, she won the consolation heat in 59.06, a time that would have placed her seventh in the final race.

A swimmer must qualify for the final heat to have their time be considered for a medal.

“I'm pretty proud of myself and the way I finished here,” Bowman said. “I was pretty nervous, and I'm not much of a morning person, so I was still tired.”

Keith Barnes is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @KBarnes_Trib.

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