Winning a state title is impressive, but even more impressive when won from lane eight.
Gunnar Zemering became the second Bethlehem boys swimmer to win a state title. The junior out-touched Alexander’s Robert Brown at the wall to win the 50-yard freestyle title at the New York State High School Swimming and Diving Championships March 2 at Webster Schroeder High School outside of Rochester.
“I never though I would be a state champion," said Zemering. "I thought I’d be high up there, but never on top. My whole swimming career, I have been trying to make states. Winning is a huge unexpected bonus."
Zemering barely made it into the finals with the eight-fastest qualifying time, which placed him in lane eight.
“Being in lane eight was detrimental, and it really lowered my confidence when I was waiting to race,” said Zemering.
Zemering's confidence was raised when he saw where he was in relation to the rest of the field halfway through the race.
"I got a glimpse of the other lanes, but I didn’t see anyone. I thought I was completely behind, when I actually was ahead of everyone," said Zemering. "So I pushed harder, and that push help land me on top of the podium."
Zemering fended off a late surge by Brown to win the 50 freestyle with a time of 20.10 seconds, two-hundredths of a second ahead of Brown.
“If I had trimmed my nails the day before I probably would have lost,” said Zemering, who entered the meet as the Section II champion in the 50 freestyle.
Zemering joins current Bethlehem Central High School physics teacher Ken Neff on the short list of Eagles to win a state title. Neff claimed the 100-yard backstroke championship in 1979.
“Being a state champion feels a lot different," said Zemering. "I feel like I have finally accomplished what I have really been pushing for, so now I just need to be consistent but also work on personal improvements in not only the 50 freestyle but also the 100 freestyle.”
Zemering is also believed to be only the second swimmer in school history to post an All-American qualifying time. And, his time of 20.10 seconds is less than one second off the qualifying time for the Olympic trials.
Zemering continues his swimming with the Delmar Dolfins between high school seasons.