HAVERFORD -- Sarah Baturka and Jimmy Jameson had no idea what they had in common on deck at the 2012 Eastern Interscholastic Championships.
They didn't know much about each other, and about all the swimmers from Episcopal Academy and Haverford School ostensibly shared that day at La Salle University was the half of the natatorium they were camped at.
But beneath the surface, the similarities were remarkable.
Both were newcomers to the meet, Baturka by age and Jameson by geography. Both were coping with personal disappointment, even if overshadowed by their respective team success. Both had been let down -- by their body or their nerves -- in what they had hoped to be the pinnacle of the season.
And for both, the road to success in 2013 began moments after the smiles of 2012 faded.
A year on, Baturka and Jameson have another thing in common: They are the 2013 Daily Times Swimmers of the Year.
Thanks to their stellar performances at Easterns in 2013, the freshman Baturka and the senior Jameson have earned the top honors on this year's All-Delco team, selected in consultation with area coaches.
Joining Baturka on the girls team is the EA quartet of Tara O'Prey, Bernadette Tankle, Emily Rhodes and McKenzie Street as well as Haverford's Alli Butera and Maddie Hart and Garnet Valley's Lauren Early. Jameson is joined on the boys team by fellow Ford Dan McGrath, Episcopal's Ben Baturka and Josh Owsiany, Haverford's Connor Hart and Penncrest's Philip Nawn.
For O'Prey, it is the rare fourth All-Delco honor. Juniors Rhodes and Tankle earn their third nods while Street and Early are two-time honorees. Jameson is the only repeat honoree for the boys and also the lone upperclassmen.
The goal in 2012 for Jameson and his Haverford School teammates was clear: An Easterns top-six team finish.
Jameson was poised to make a sizeable contribution to that quest. Then the transfer from New Trier High School outside Chicago started to feel under the weather. At first, it seemed a particularly bad case of the dead-of-winter, training fatigue many swimmers experience. But when the yards lightened up, the aches and weakness didn't.
A week before Easterns, the viral infection turned nasty. Jameson, about 15 pounds lighter from constant fluid loss, earned a trip to the hospital and a bout of uncertainty as to whether he'd get the culmination to his season he'd worked for."I just remember talking on the phone with (coach) Sean (Hansen) and him saying it was completely up to me,' Jameson said about going to Easterns. "But at the same time in my mind I knew that the team was kind of riding on my swims. There was all that training I'd been doing the whole year, and I didn't want to give that up.'
Jameson, in a haze of exhaustion and medication, doesn't remember much. The results, though, were memorable: 11th in the 100 free, third in the 100 fly and legs on two Delco record-setting relays.
Through it all, though, Jameson felt cheated, unable to unleash his best. It was the slight that would define his senior campaign."I was trying to prove myself to the team,' he said. "So not quite being 100 percent -- really a lot under -- was kind of a chip on my shoulder. This year coming, I knew that I had so much potential left. Not having anyone at school see that from the previous season, I wanted to show that in season that I was going to be a legitimate swimmer. So I just started training as hard as I could, working every day to the fullest.'
Those efforts bore fruits. He and McGrath re-wrote the record books, Jameson claiming school records in the 100 free and his specialty, the 100 fly, plus a home pool record in the 100 back. He and McGrath traded the 50 free mark several times, the latter taking it at the last dual meet by .01 seconds.
But as Easterns approached, the nagging exhaustion reared its ugly head again. The finishing kick Jameson possessed in the regular season had disappeared by Inter-Acs. The workouts were becoming harder to power through.
In addition to physically fighting off mononucleosis, not diagnosed until after Easterns, Jameson also tangled with the mental symptoms, that crushing, here-we-go-again dismay.
To Jameson, though, it got to be old hat."I was starting to worry a bit and I was feeling under the weather, but at the same time, I knew it was nothing like I had experienced the year before,' he said. "I just knew to rest myself every day, get those massages at Easterns and work everything out. In the end, it was just kind of that belief that I had experienced worse, so this was nothing compared to what happened before and I was just able to push through it."It was kind of like the ' why me' thing. But I told Sean about that too, and he kind of talked me out of it. I couldn't keep that in my mind because if I had any doubt that I was going to perform worse than I could, I probably would. So I just had to believe that I would be at 100 percent, and when the time came, I was.'
At long last, through all the adversity, Jameson had a championship meet worthy of an exalted career that has him on the recruiting radar at Penn, Georgetown and North Carolina.
He finished third in the 100 free, getting under his goal time of 46 seconds. He broke the 50-second mark in the 100 fly, clocking a 49.99 to finish second. And his final high school swim was a sensational 400 free relay split of 44.90 to cap a fifth-place finish for the Fords in the team standings."Everything kind of seemed to click for me,' Jameson said. "Going a 49 in the 100 fly was kind of my year-long goal and my high school goal. ... I really gave it my all, and I thought I gave the best swims I possibly could give, healthy or not.'
Baturka's Easterns experience in 2012 as an eighth-grader was not as dramatic. It had its undeniably triumphant moments.
She entered her first event, the 200 IM, in the mix for a spot in the C final. She ended up dropping six seconds to get to the A final.
But what Baturka remembers most from her finals swim isn't that she finished sixth, picking up a bevy of points her team wasn't counting on; it was that she was three seconds slower than prelims. After a swim well beyond her years in the morning, Baturka showed the nerves of a middle-schooler at night."I wouldn't say I choked, but I definitely got nervous at finals swimming the 200 IM swimming next to all these great upperclassmen swimmers,' Baturka said. "But this year, I definitely -- and I talked about it with my coach and he tried to get me really in the right mindset -- to know that there's no reason to be nervous just because I've done this race many times before.'
The big difference as a grizzled freshman was partially due to preparation. EA's stroke guru Quincy Hyson helped Baturka shore up her weak breaststroke to transform her from a backstroker who can swim IM to a true IM-er.
But it was also due to her step up a rung in the family hierarchy. With three-time Daily Times swimmer of the year Emily Baturka having graduated to the collegiate pools of Penn, Sarah inherited not just the symbolic role of "big Baturka' but also a spot on the medley relay.
That opening swim, won by the Churchmen at Easterns, had a calming effect."Last year, I think that the medley relay actually got me more nervous because I was watching all of the girls win and I just heard all of the excitement and it made me a little nervous for my races,' she said. "But this year it was totally different being that I was able to swim in the relay. The excitement was just so loud and everybody on the Episcopal team was feeling fired up, so I think being able to swim on that relay and get the meet going on such a high note, it motivates not just you but your teammates to want to get after those fast times and get up onto the podium.'
She did just that. After hovering in the high 2:10s through the season, she posted the third-fastest prelims time at 2:05.76, then finished fifth at night. It was the result of a year of confidence building."The coaches like to joke that I was getting fifth place in a dual meet in a 2:19 and barely able to finish the race, and then a month later, dropping 14 seconds and going a 2:05,' Baturka said. "It's a little scary in the middle of the season to know that you can go faster, to know that you have done a 2:07 before. But at the same time, you know when the taper hits and when you correctly work on all your strokes and correct all the little details, you'll be ready to race at the end of the season.'
Combine that with a 1-2-3 finish in the 100 back, eighth-grader Emma Seiberlich taking first and Baturka third behind Rhodes, and a leg on the second-place 400 free relay, and it was a swimmer-of-the-year quality meet.
It also puts her one up on sister Emily, though with an asterisk since the elder Baturka missed her freshman year with a knee injury. Don't expect the younger sister to rub it in, though."We're the kind of family that even though we're super competitive, it's all in good fun and at the end of the day, we're still family,' Sarah Baturka said. "We never talk bad about each other, but we always encourage each other. I knew she was super excited for me after all of my end-of-season swims. And I know she's doing well and having fun with her college swimming. We're just both incredibly happy.'