Emilee Gysegem knew when she was 10 years old, Clarion, Pa., was more than a place to visit for a swimming camp.
The 2011 Lakeview High School graduate saw Clarion University and knew the campus 90 minutes east of Cortland would be her home for the next couple of years.
"First camp I went to I was 10 years old. I loved it," she said. "I was away from my parents. I loved the campus. It was the first campus I've ever been on. For a long time, I definitely thought I was going to Clarion. Then, when I was getting older, there are other options. Maybe I should look around? In the back of my mind, I always knew Clarion was always there and I knew nothing was ever going to top it.
Clarion swimmer Emilee Gysegem
"I had to go out and look around, but I always had a feeling I was going to end up at Clarion. It's the only place that ever felt like home."
Clarion coach Mark VanDyke saw something special in Gysegem, now a sophomore for the Golden Eagles, back then.
"I could tell she was going to be a great, great swimmer," he said. "When she came to camp, she was always pleasant, always talked with everybody. Being the great swimmer, that was something we wanted to have in our program.
College Corner: Emilee Gysegem
Editor's note: This is a weekly series published each Monday profiling local athletes now participating on the collegiate level.
Alma Mater: Lakeview
The skinny:?Had two third place finishes at the PSAC Championship meet ... recently finished third in the 400?IM and sixth in the 200 IM at the Zippy Invitational in Akron ... Member of the Student Athlete Advistory committee
"Also, she's an outstanding student. She's a total package for a student-athlete."
She maintains 4.0 GPA in business management with a minor in sports management in the honor program, which counts as an extra minor.
"I'm really proud of that," Gysegem said. "I didn't think that was going to happen when I went to college. I've been able to manage it so far - fingers crossed."
She hasn't had to cross her fingers in the water, where she's on the cusp of automatically qualifying for the NCAA Division II Swimming and Diving Championships March 6-9 at the Spire Institute in Geneva.
Gysegem is ranked in the top 10 in NCAA Division II in the 200-yard and 400-yard IM events. She also swims in the 200 backstroke. All three events are close to being automatic qualifiers for nationals.
Interestingly enough, the 400 IM, where she does the butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke and freestyle in that order. In the 400, there are four laps for each event.
"In high school, I was a specialty 200 IMer," Gysegem said. "But when I went to college with the amount of training we do and the different things we do, I'm a lot more endurance based and I can keep my feet up for longer. I've really excelled in the 400 IM in college because of the training we're doing."
VanDyke said she is a strong swimmer.
"She has no weak stroke," he said. "In the 200, you can almost get away with one leg of that, that might not be strong because you're only going a 50 of it. We you're going a 400 IM, you have to have four strong strokes to be able to do that.
"Because of her four strong strokes, her 400 IM will continue to keep improving."
Gysegem has excelled in the distance events like the 400 IM because of a program called CrossFit. According to Wikipedia, "Workouts are typically short - 20 minutes or less - and intense, demanding all-out physical exertion. They combine movements such as sprinting, rowing, jumping rope, climbing rope, flipping tires, weightlifting, carrying heavy objects, and many bodyweight exercises; equipment used includes barbells, dumbbells, gymnastics rings, pull-up bars, kettlebells, medicine balls, and boxes for box jumps."
"It feels like the longest half hour of your life, but at the end of it you're glad you did it," Gysegem said.
That endurance she has gained in the Clarion program has helped be become one of the Golden Eagles' best swimmers.
"It wasn't something she did every single weekend," VanDyke said of the 400 IM. "It gets to the point in college she's always swimming the distance events. As she goes through, she's going to gather a little more endurance and little more strength.
"She's embraced everything we've done over here. She was coached over there by Frank Supancic, who was a former Clarion guy. She has great basics and now all we have to do is get her a little more endurance."