Lebanon’s Palmer a ‘great inspiration’ to swim program

Freshman para-athlete is competing in two events at Saturday’s district meet

LEBANON — Whether she’s running cross country or swimming in a freestyle event, nothing seems to stop Lebanon High School freshman Emma Palmer.

“I just want to be able to feel like I’ve done my best,” Palmer said.

The para-athlete has done just that this winter as a member of the Lebanon swimming team.

Palmer has trimmed significant time from her backstroke and freestyle events since the start of the season as she prepares to compete in the para-swimming district meet Saturday at Miami University.

“She’s been a great inspiration,” said Lebanon swimming coach Brent Ketcham. “She is very determined. Even though she has some physical limitations she’s not letting that get in her way.”

Palmer, 14, has limited mobility in her left arm and left leg, but immeasurable determination in the pool. Her teammates have been instrumental for Palmer all winter, too.

“It really has been uplifting to see how much support she gets from the team, coaches and from the community,” said Andy Palmer, Emma’s father.

Emma Palmer’s confidence is evident every time she prepares for a meet, Ketcham said. Regardless of the opponent, Palmer expects to win. She loves being a part of the team.

“They’ve just been so supportive,” she said. “The last meet I actually swam at I was really terrified before my event and they helped cheer me up before I just got in.”

Palmer is used to receiving the loudest ovations at the cross country and swim meets. That just increases her motivation to compete.

“It just makes me want to go faster,” she said.

If the next two weeks are any indication, Palmer could thrive in large venues with the district meet at Miami University and the state meet in Canton.

“It’s hard not to kind of tear up just because of the raw emotion of everyone cheering on not just Emma but all the para-athletes that are competing,” Ketcham said. “It’s just a great atmosphere. A great community supporting these athletes.”

It’s why Palmer’s family is grateful for other student-athletes and families who walk up and say Emma is an inspiration during meets.

Palmer, one of 12 para-athletes expected to compete at the state meet, knows her family is proud. In fact, she’s already looking forward to the next sport — trying ultimate frisbee for the first time this spring.

Ketcham said Palmer is an example for others around the Lebanon swim program for the future, too.

“Emma can be a role model,” Ketcham said. “Hopefully this will also bring attention to those athletes that are coming up that have some physical limitations that, ‘Hey, I can do this. I can swim in high school and have some recognition and gain some success,’ that maybe they wouldn’t have seen prior to Emma coming on and swimming.”

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