ADAMS TWP — Maggie Gruber would be hard-pressed to better 2012 — but it’s something that still drives the Mars High School senior.
Gruber is coming off a tremendous year, which saw her add two WPIAL Class AA swimming titles, two PIAA championships and qualified to take part in the U.S. Olympic Team Trials in Omaha, Neb. this past June.
For her efforts, Gruber’s achievements have made her the top local sports story in 2012 as voted on by the Butler Eagle sports staff.
“She’s worked so hard for everything she’s gotten,” said Mars swimming coach Heidi Brandon.
Gruber — who recently accepted a scholarship to swim at Virginia Tech next fall — opened the year by winning the 100-yard butterfly in 55 seconds flat, then broke her own WPIAL meet mark in the 100-yard backstroke with a time of 54.6, besting her old mark of 56.0 the year before.
She followed up at the PIAA meet with state records in the 100 fly preliminary heat (54.43), before shattering that with a 53.5 in the finals.
In the 100 back, she won with a time of 54.54.
In the same month, she qualified to compete in the U.S. Olympic Trials by clocking a 1:01.81 in the 100-meter fly on March 9 at the Columbus Grand Prix at Ohio State University.
She found herself in elite company, competing against some of this year’s Olympic stars.
“Whenever I went into it, I went in like it was nationals or the grand prix,” Gruber said. “You walk in and you’re in awe. Yeah, I was nervous. There’s a lot of pressure. I’d say even though your goal is to get your best time, your goal is still to make the Olympic team.
“Hopefully, with more practice, I’ll be there again,” she added.
“I think she did well out there,” Brandon noted. “That’s a scary thing to be in, to be in with some Olympic athletes.”
Still, it was an amazing way to enter the summer after the glow of the high school championships were still fresh in her mind. Another year, another medal, but Gruber doesn’t just see the titles as hardware at home.
“Each championship has different memories,” said Gruber, who owns four WPIAL and four PIAA championships in her career. “The boys were state runner-up last year (with only five boys on the roster). Even though I was not part of that team, they did well and I did well. I’ll always remember that as one of my favorite meets.”
It’s the idea of helping her team that stands out even more than the individual accomplishments themselves.
“When I go to state, my main goal is to win,” said Gruber. “But, my overall goal is to do better and help the team. You make some changes and you work harder.
“Motivation is hard to do. You go to practice every day and it gets hard, but you have to push through it. It will be worth it in the end.
“My teammates help to make things fun and we want to win,” Gruber added.
So far this season, Gruber is off to a great start and even set a pair of pool records in Mars’ meet against the Tornado two weeks ago.
“She had come off a big Junior nationals meet and was very tired,” Brandon said, “but she wants to finish out her career strong and not slack off.
“She wants to have a good state meet and keep those state records up there awhile,” Brandon added.
Brandon still sees Gruber as a work in progress with hopes the best is still yet to come.
“I saw her when she was much younger at the Butler Country Club and I’ve continued to watch her through high school. It’s not surprising,” Brandon said. “And Maggie’s young for her grade. She hasn’t reached her full height yet and hasn’t weight trained yet.
“It takes a special athlete to do what she’s done.”