The Times West Virginian

February 22, 2014

Campbell swims to state title; Polar Bears place sixth: PHOTOS

By Mike DeFabo
Times West Virginian

MORGANTOWN — Michelle Bright tried to persuade. She tried to plead. She even tried begging.

But every day in freshman science class, Taylor Campbell gave the same answer when Bright asked if he would go out for the swim team. He wanted to play basketball.

“Mostly it was him ignoring me,” the Fairmont Senior swimming coach remembers.

Two years and countless requests later, Campbell gave in and traded his sneakers for a swim cap. Friday, he was sure glad he did.

The junior swam to first place in the 100-yard freestyle to earn a state title and third place in the 50-yard freestyle at the West Virginia State Swimming Championships at the West Virginia University Natatorium.

He touched the wall at 48.30 in the 100-yard freestyle to break the school record that he set just a day earlier in preliminaries. For his efforts, Campbell was named to the all-state team at the conclusion of the meet.

After his state-championship swim, Campbell slapped the water in celebration. Then, he walked over to coach Bright and shared a big, wet hug.

“That was really emotional for both of us,” Campbell said. “She knows how hard I work. And I know how hard she works.”

Bright knew that Campbell had potential, but she never envisioned that he would perform so well in his first year back in the pool.

“I knew he would do great after watching him swim all summer,” Bright said. “But to be a state champion and all-state his first year back, I had no vision of that at all.”

Campbell’s performance helped to propel the Polar Bears to a sixth-place team finish. George Washington, Notre Dame and Parkersburg earned the top three slots.

Campbell joined Ben Stewart, Isaac Kinder and Jeremy Sheppard to take fourth in the 200-yard freestyle relay with a time of 1:34.28. He also teamed up with Brandon Ralston, Joseph Austin and Sheppard to earn a seventh-place finish in the 400-yard freestyle relay with a time of 3:36.19.

The Polar Bears made some waves even when Campbell wasn’t in the pool. Ralston, Stewart, Kinder and Sheppard earned fifth in the 200-yard medley relay, finishing at 1:47.12.

Individually, Kinder took 10th in the 200-yard freestyle (2:00.22) and 11th in the 100-yard freestyle (53.68). Ralston swam to ninth in the 100-yard backstroke (1:01.50). And Stewart was 11th in the 100-yard breaststroke (1:08.36).

“The overall performance is outstanding,” said Dion Bright, who coaches the Polar Bears with his wife Michelle. “They continue to drop times and work as a team. After Taylor won states, you could tell that the rest of the team fed off that energy and just kept that momentum going.”

As a team, the Polar Bears hope to keep that momentum going next year. The bulk of the team will return, as just one senior will graduate from the team.

As for Campbell, will he stick with swimming or go back to basketball in his senior year?

“Oh I’ll be out here for sure,” Campbell said with a smile.

Email Mike DeFabo at mdefabo@timeswv.com or follow him on Twitter @MikeDeFaboTWV.