Hampton junior swimmer moves into fast lane

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Saturday, February 3, 2024 | 11:01 AM


Hampton junior swimmer Wil Cramer is proving that where there’s a will, there’s a way.

After an “annoying” sophomore season that saw him miss qualifying for the WPIAL Class 2A swimming championships by less than a second, Cramer has already punched his ticket in two events, the 200 IM and the 200 freestyle, and is knocking on the door on two more.

“I think he just didn’t swim as well as he wanted to last year and he just realized, ‘If I want to swim better, I’ve got to go a little bit more,’ ” Hampton swimming coach Morgan Zweygardt said. “He didn’t swim badly last year. It just wasn’t as fast as he wanted to go.”

Cramer was nine-tenths of a second shy of reaching the WPIAL Class 2A automatic qualifying standard in the 200 IM last season and attended the championships as an alternate. For the second straight year, he didn’t get to compete at the district finals.

“It was pretty annoying,” he said. “It was disappointing.”

Cramer dove into a busy offseason, training at least two hours a day, five to six times a week. He began swimming the 200 freestyle — an event he didn’t swim last season in high school — with his club team and saw a sudden drop in his times. He lowered his personal best by about 10 seconds in his first offseason meet.

“That big time drop really motivated me,” he said. “I just thought I could probably drop a lot of time in that this season and make the WPIAL cut. That was mainly my focus.”

Cramer showed up for Hampton preseason workouts with a renewed drive. He started training in the fast lane and quickly opened the eyes of his eighth-year coach.

“He’s pushing himself,” Zweygardt said. “He decided this year that he’s ready to go.”

Cramer needed only one week to post a WPIAL-qualifying time in the 200 IM, recording a mark of 2 minutes, 16.37 seconds in an 89-89 tie with North Hills on Dec. 5. The WPIAL cut is 2:17.5.

“That was nice,” he said, “to get it out of the way.”

The 5-foot-11, 150-pound Cramer was just getting started. On Jan. 17 in a 101-44 victory over visiting North Catholic, he touched the wall in the 200 free in 1:59.99, topping the WPIAL cut time of 2:00.2.

“Before the time even switched and before I looked up, I heard everybody screaming,” he said. “It was nice because I knew other people wanted me to get it.”

The time was notable considering Cramer’s previous fastest in-season effort in the 200 free was 2:23.21 as a freshman.

Hampton (4-3-1, 2-1 in Section 3-2A as of Jan. 24) has a handful of regular season meets remaining for Cramer to add to his list of qualified events for the WPIAL Class 2A championships Feb. 29-March 1. He needs to shave 2.3 seconds off his 100 backstroke time (1:04.21) and 4.0 seconds off his 100 butterfly (1:03.76) to reach the automatic qualifying standards.

“He’s always had potential,” Zweygardt said. “Some kids just come to it at different times, where they decide, ‘OK, I’m ready to really take this seriously.’ “

Cramer started swimming in fifth grade and admits it was “just a thing that I did.” An Eagle Scout and an accomplished guitarist, he would skip workouts and didn’t devote himself to the sport.

“I just enjoyed it,” he said. “I really don’t think I was good at all. In middle school and fifth grade, I can definitely tell you I didn’t go to practice every day.

“But once I got to high school, I decided I wanted to take this seriously and I think it paid off.”

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