CANTON Alyssa Clifford should have a big say in whether or not the Canton girls swimming team can unseat defending sectional champion Massena.
The Golden Bears standout was superb in last years runnerup sectional finish to the Raiders, gaining a first in both the 200-meter freestyle and 400 freestyle relay, as well as securing a runner-up finish in both the 100 freestyle and 200 medley relay.
This year, Clifford has helped Canton stay undefeated at 5-0 in the Northern Athletic Conference as 28th-year coach Meg McGovern has entered her senior in several unfamiliar events.
The nice thing about Alyssa is her versatility. We know how strong she is in the 200 and 100 freestyle. Her times in the 200 free are better than weve seen here in a long time, McGovern said. This year shes been swimming a lot of events including the backstroke and intermediate. Shes finding her niche right now, where she can help the team the most.
Clifford, in her fourth year on the varsity, is fully dedicated to the sport, having given up basketball at Canton to swim year round with the Northern TRIBS swimming club.
The club helps make me a more well-rounded swimmer. Swimming is my life right now, its what I do basically, Clifford said. The 200 freestyle is my best event but after I learned all the strokes, Ive tried the IM and other events. I want to help the team.
Cantons goal is to equal Massenas feat as undefeated, sectional champions.
Thats our goal, we all talk about it, thats our focus. Its what were working for, Clifford said. Massena has really good swimmers, too, and theyre our biggest rival right now.
McGovern has coached hundreds of swimmers at Canton and ranks Clifford among the best.
Alyssa loves swimming. She loves the sport and she has a lot of talent in it. She hones in on it. Shes very competitive, McGovern said. Shes is a really strong swimmer. She has great strength.
Because of injuries suffered in her career, Clifford is thinking about a career in physical therapy. Her family is moving to San Diego after Clifford graduates from Canton and she hopes to attend San Diego State University and swim, at least on the club level, at the Division I school.
Alyssa gives a lot of credit to her mother, Johanna, for getting to this point in her career.
Without the help of my mom, I could not accomplished what I have, Clifford said. I would not have made it this far.