Tigers' Burns has year to remember
Madison Burns didn't swim scholastically in either her freshman or sophomore years at Northwestern High School.
Burns recently revealed that she doesn't know if she is going to participate in any PIAA sponsored meets her senior year.
But if Burns' only assay into high school swimming turns out to be this past season, she definitely made it one to remember.
The Northwestern junior captured a pair of gold medals in Class AA at both the District 11 and State championship meets.
It was an extraordinary performance in the pool, especially for someone whose school doesn't have a swim team and who wasn't even competing in her best event.
But when it comes to swimming, extraordinary is ordinary for Burns.
For her success on high school swimming's biggest stage, Burns was selected the 2010-11 TIMES NEWS Swimmer of the Year.
"It was exciting," said Burns of her District and State title swims. "I didn't know exactly what to expect, but I was pretty happy with how I performed."
Normally, Burns' best performances come with the Parkland Aquatic Club. PAAC is part of USA Swimming, the official governing body for competitive swimming in the United States.
That's where Burns has been swimming competitively and year round since she has been 8 years old.
Since Northwestern doesn't have a pool or a swim team, Burns entered Districts as an independent. She established qualifying times by swimming during a Parkland High School meet and also an invitational meet during the regular season.
"Madison and her parents did a great job of making sure they took care of everything that she needed to enter Districts," said Northwestern Athletic Director Jason Zimmerman. "It's difficult when you don't have a team and a coach like just about every other sport does. There are a number of details that have to be taken care and they made my job a lot easier by knowing exactly what they needed to do."
Swimming the 200 individual medley and the 100 breaststroke, Burns was in a class by herself at Districts. She won the 200 IM by over three seconds and was nearly five seconds better than her closest competitor in the breaststroke. Her dominating performance earned her the Dennis A. McGinley Award as the meet's top female swimmer.
"My goal entering Districts was to win gold in both events," said Burns. "Based on qualifying times, I knew I had a pretty good shot at it.
"But states was another story. I knew I would have to be at my best to win gold there, especially in the IM."
Burns was up to the challenge.
On the first day of competition, she set a state record in the 200 IM, turning in a time of 2:00.48. She followed that up on day two with a convincing gold medal performance in the breaststroke, winning by over two seconds.
Although Burns' leap from first-time scholastic competitor to State gold medalist might have caught a lot of people by surprise, the work to reach that level has been going on for years.
"I have probably been swimming competitively since I was 8 or 9 years old," said Burns, who began swimming for the Emmaus Aquatic Club but now works out at and competes for the Parkland Aquatic Club. "Right now, I train six or seven days a week for three or four hours a day."
Burns said she heads to PAAC immediately after school and mixes in cardio and strength workouts with her time in the water.
"The training routine Madison goes through and the self motivation she has to do it, just blows my mind," said Zimmerman. "On top of that, she is a great kid. She doesn't look to draw attention to herself. She just goes about her work."
That work ethic has help Burns produce USA Swim meet times that have qualified her for this summer's Nationals and Junior Nationals in California.
It has also gotten her close to an even bigger goal the United States Olympic Trials in 2012. Burns' best chance of qualifying for that will be in an event the PIAA doesn't even offer.
"Right now, my time in the 400 IM is just three seconds off the Olympic Trials qualifying mark," said Burns. "I think that's a realistic goal for me right now."
It's also a goal that puts competing in next year's District 11 and PIAA meets on the back burner.
"I still haven't decided what I'm going to do next year," said Burns. "But I wanted to compete [scholastically] at least once during my high school career.
"I'm happy I did and I'm happy with how it worked out."
If this turns out to be Burns' only season of PIAA competition, she will have the satisifaction of knowing that she was one of the greatest one-year wonders of all time.