When it came time for Cameron Anderson to decide which events he would swim at the NCHSAA 1A/2-A Eastern Regional, he was in trouble.
It wasn’t that he was ill-prepared – though a nasty spell of the flu during the middle of the season had caused him to lose a lot of weight and sapped much of his endurance – but rather that he had trouble picking just two individual events.
Anderson, a sophomore at Tarboro, had swam everything but the 100-yard butterfly during the regular season and won every single race in which he entered.
As a freshman at Rocky Mount Academy, Anderson had success in the 100- and 200-yard freestyles, winning the NCISSA 2-A state championships in both events. And he had to factor in that he still was part of two Tarboro relays that eventually qualified for the state meet.
“I think we waited until the 12th hour to decide,” Cameron’s father, Peter Anderson, said.
Anderson ultimately decided on the 50- and 100-yard freestyles, arguably the top two events in terms of competitiveness.
It was no matter for Anderson, who kept his undefeated season intact: He won both events at the Eastern Regional and then earned two gold medals at the state championship, earning the Telegram’s 2013 All-Area Boys’ Swimmer of the Year.
Particularly in the 50-yard freestyle, which Tarboro’s coaches have dubbed the “spalsh-and-dash,” any mistake can sabotage a swimmer’s chances of winning because the race is so short and everybody racing swims at full effort for the duration.
“There’s a lot of competition in that event,” Anderson said. “I think we felt it would probably be the best, the best two (events) for me.”
The medals didn’t come without plenty of drama. Anderson’s main competitor in both events, Carrboro senior Justin Morrell, pushed both swimmers to their peaks.
Morrell stands about seven inches taller than the 5-foot-10 Anderson, and both swimmers kept shaving seconds off their times in both events at every stage and recording new personal bests.
“Every single time, they both dropped time,” Peter Anderson said. “Even in the prelims at the state meet, they didn’t swim in the same heat, but he dropped time. When I saw (Morrell’s) time, I was, like, ‘Oh, gosh.’”
The result was a 50 freestyle final that nobody in attendance could forget.
Both swimmers tore off to personal bests, and as Morrell closed on Anderson, it appeared – especially to the purple-clad Tarboro contingent – that Anderson had won by a few hundredths of a second.
“When you look at a race, you judge by their heads,” Peter Anderson said. “When they finished, Cameron’s head was ahead of his, but (Morrell) was just taller. When I looked at the clock, I was, like, ‘No, that can’t be right.’”
Both swimmer looked up to see the same thing: 21.76, the fastest either had ever swam, but on a more pressing note, a tie.
“He looked at me and said ‘What do we do now?’” Anderson said. “I thought we were going to have a swim-off.”
Neither swimmer had ever tied anybody, and certainly not in the most important race in both of their lives.
They split the gold medal – Anderson let Morrell have the original because Morrell was a senior, then the NCHSAA mailed Anderson his gold medal – but there was no splitting anything in the 100 free.
Anderson took the lead, lost it, then made a mad sprint to win the event comfortably for his fourth individual state championship in four tries.
So, what now for the soft-spoken Anderson?
“I guess my goal is to be undefeated again,” he said.
In the way only he could, Anderson shrugged off an outrageous goal that he already has accomplished. He’s almost there – he almost has convinced everybody it’s easy.
Nick Piotrowicz can be reached at 407-9952 or npiotrowicz@ rmtelegram.com