Gysegem sisters making big waves

Aimee and Emilee Gysegem can remember the trips down to Canton like it was yesterday.

In fact, Thursday, they made a similar trip to the state swim meet at the C.T. Branin Natatorium.

This time around, the roles have been reversed.

Emilee is a sophomore at Clarion University and qualified for the NCAA Division II National Championships March 6-9 in Birmingham, Ala., in the 200-yard IM, 400 IM and 200 backstroke.

She’s making the trek westward to see her younger sister, Aimee, a sophomore at Howland High School, compete in the preliminaries of today’s Division I 500 freestyle.

“I can’t believe I’m this old, to be honest,” Emilee said. “It feels weird to be driving to the state meet and not be competing in it.

“It hits me sometimes that I’m not a freshman at the state meet anymore or a sophomore at the state meet. I’m a sophomore in college and going to be graduating in two years.”

Aimee saw Emilee go to the Division II state meet four straight years (2008-11) for Lakeview High School.

“It’s feels a lot different,” Aimee said. “I’ve been here four times. It’s kind of like the roles have changed. It doesn’t feel like the same meet because I’m swimming in it.

“It’s actually comforting to have someone here that’s done it before so many times. Obviously, she has plenty of experience.”

Both sisters overcame their shortcomings last season. Emilee just missed going to NCAA Nationals, while Aimee missed the state meet.

“This year we really came back and worked our butts off to get where we wanted to be and it happened for us,” Emilee said.

Emilee got her NCAA Nationals IM times at the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference meet earlier this month and found out this week both times were qualifiers. She smashed the 400 IM Clarion record (4:27.11), breaking the old record held by former 28-time All-American Christina Tillotson of 4:28.04. She won the 200 IM (2:05.33), just missing that record by 13-hundredths of a second. She swam (2:04.91) in the 200 backstroke.

Aimee missed state in the 200 freestyle by 2-hundreths of a second, but it doesn’t faze her.

“It was disappointing, but I had my best time,” she said. “That’s really all you can ask for. I’m happy of how it all played out.”

This morning, Aimee wants to cut some more time on her 500 freestyle, where she’s 19th (5:06.11). If she gets in the top 16, she’ll be racing on Saturday. The top eight make the championship race, while nine through 16 are in the consolation race.

“Any time I drop tomorrow, it’ll make me happy,” she said. “I’m hoping to get under 5:05, but any drop would be appreciated.”

This time, Emilee is the spectator in Canton.

“I can’t wait to see how fast she swims this weekend. I know she’s going to do great,” Emilee said of Aimee.