Northeastern coach Dan Schaberle has been fairly upfront with his lofty expectations for standout swimmer Niki Price.
Still, Schaberle was admittedly the more nervous of the two Friday.
The Bobcat coach, who predicted in the preseason that the junior would win several medals at states this season, felt some butterflies before Price competed in the finals of the 100-yard butterfly at the PIAA Class AAA Meet.
Price, who qualified first in the butterfly Friday morning at Bucknell University, found herself behind two other girls heading into the event's final stretch. Much like she did in the preliminaries, where she made up ground to finish first, Price again made up that deficit -- and then some -- to earn a gold medal with a time of 54.11 seconds.
She capped off her history-making, two-day meet by capturing a sixth-place medal in the 100 breaststroke Saturday.
It was a very good finish to a very satisfying high school season for Price, who competed only with her club team at the York YMCA during the previous two seasons. Price entered her first year with Northeastern already decorated, having been a part of a 200 medley relay team that broke the national record at the 2012 short-course YMCA National Championships. That same quartet also took first in the 400 medley relay.
But even though her high school season has ended, Price will move on to the YMCA Nationals in early April. She plans to swim in a number of events there, including her favorite, the 200 individual medley. Price became the first Northeastern girl to win a PIAA gold medal. We caught up with her for this edition of Sports Q&A.
What was your mindset heading into states this weekend?
"I was just going up there to have fun. I guess I had the goal to try to win the 100 fly and make the finals in the breaststroke and see what happens there. All of the work was already done for this season it was just a matter of putting it all together and seeing what happens."
In the finals you were actually in third heading into the final leg. Did you realize where you were at that time?
"I realized at the 50 that I was behind and I had to swim really strong. When I hit the last wall for the last 25, I knew that I had to hit it really hard because there were a couple of girls that were at the top. So I did realize it when I hit the third wall and saw everyone. It was tough."
What went through your mind when you realized that you had just won a PIAA gold medal?
"I was excited. That's what I've been working for this season. I don't really know what I felt. It was just kind of surreal, I guess."
You wrapped up your first experience at states with a sixth- place finish in the breaststroke. Is the butterfly your favorite event of the two, or is there another event that you prefer?
"My favorite event is the 200 IM. Now I didn't swim that because I have my championship meet for my club in a couple of weeks. But the 100 fly is probably my second-best event, or my second-favorite event. The 100 breaststroke is one that I don't normally get to do, so that was just kind of for fun."
So you're even better in the 200 IM than the butterfly?
"Well, I don't know. The 200 IM and the 100 fly are about equal, I'd say. But I like the 200 IM better. It's hard to pick between those two."
Why did your up coming club champion ship prevent you from swimming the 200 IM at states?
"Well we have Y Nationals coming up and I really wanted to save my better events for that. And it would have been tough to do the 200 IM and the 100 fly because they are so close together at states. So I was going to try to do one event a day and I picked the 100 breaststroke for my second event."
Are you happy with your decision to swim with your high school team this year?
"Oh, yeah. Definitely. I really wanted to be a part of my high school and it was a lot of fun. It was definitely worth it."
Is there any differ ence in the atmosphere and the competition between a PIAA event and a YMCA National event?
"Honestly, states and YMCA Nationals, the atmosphere is very similar. Everyone is real excited. Both of those meets are really exciting. And a lot of the girls that swim at states also will swim at nationals."
"So in early April you're going to nation als with the YMCA. Where is that held and what events do you plan to swim there?
"That's held in Greensboro, N.C., this year. I'll definitely do the 200 IM and the 100 butterfly. I'll probably swim a couple of other events ... probably the 100 backstroke and the 200 free or the 200 fly depending on what we decide when we get down there. And then we'll have our relays down there, too."
You were on a couple of those relays that set some records in the past, right?
"Yeah. Last year at nationals our 400 medley relay won, but I don't think we set a record in that one. Our 200 medley relay finished second and broke the record, but the first-place team also did. So we finished second in that one, but still broke the national record."
Obviously to wrap up your junior season with a gold and a sixth- place medal, what does that do for your goals heading into next year?
"I don't know. I think that next year heading into states I'm going to have goals of possibly bringing home two gold medals. But it will depend on what events that I swim. There's a lot of different opportunities for next year, but my goals are definitely going to be higher come next year."
-- Reach Ryan Vander sloot at sports@yorkdis patch.com.