But what Empey accomplished at last month’s state meet was more than enough to earn his second consecutive selection as The Columbian’s All-Region boys swimmer of the year.
Empey’s state meet came toward the end of a big year for the swimmer.
Last fall, Empey made a verbal commitment to swim for Auburn University.
“I started talking to Auburn last summer,” Empey said. “They reached out to me after I had sectionals in the spring. I took a visit in September, right after my summer season, and I just loved it.”
Empey also took visits to Alabama, Missouri and Minnesota, but none of the schools measured up to Auburn.
“I loved all the guys there,” he said. “The coaches are fantastic, and the campus was amazing. I don’t know, I just knew when I was there that it was the place for me.”
Being part of a successful team was something Empey enjoyed about this past season at Union High School. And the culmination at the state meet was perfect reflection of that.
Empey said the most memorable parts of the state meet wasn’t how he performed as an individual, but how his teammates performed.
“I was surprised,” he said. “The other guys stepped up when I didn’t have my best performances. They made up for my loss. I was hoping for a win in a couple of the relays, but I wasn’t sure if we could get there. If you looked at the times (going into the meet) we were definitely down. But we managed to place (third) in the 400 free relay and won the 200 free relay.”
In the 200 free relay, Empey didn’t get the Titans off to a start he had hoped, even though he swam the fastest leg of his team.
But teammates Owen Robertson, brother Steven Empey and anchorman Alexander Wahlman came up big to propel Union to victory.
“That was probably the highlight of the meet for me,” Empey said. “That was probably my worst performance of the meet, but the best result. And that really speaks to how the other three did on the relay.”
Heading into his senior year at Union, Empey is looking forward to being a bigger piece of the team leadership.
“We are going to lose some big seniors on our relays from this year,” he said. “So we will need some people to step up. And I think I need to take that role of getting those people to that place.”
And he wants Nathan Adrian’s record.
“I’ve been thinking about that, reflecting after the (state) meet,” Empey said. “I knew I could have gone faster, and I’ll definitely make up for that next year.”
Rest of All-Region team
James Crawford, Camas
Sophomore placed 10th in the 500-yard freestyle at the 4A state meet and placed 14th in the 200 individual medley.
Parker Dangleis, Hockinson
Senior was the runner-up in the 100-yard freestyle at the 2A/1A state meet and placed third in the 50-yard freestyle.
Nathan Kim, Camas
Senior placed third in the 200-yard freestyle at the 4A state meet and placed eighth in the 100-yard butterfly.
Tarik Kurta, Fort Vancouver
Junior was the runner-up in the 50-yard freestyle at the 2A/1A state meet and placed fifth in the 100-yard freestyle.
Owen Robertson, Union
Sophomore placed fifth in the 200-yard freestyle at the 4A state meet and placed eighth in the 500-yard freestyle.
Alexander Wahlman, Union
Senior placed fourth in the 100 freestyle at 4A state meet, 9th in the 50 freestyle and anchored Union’s state champion relay.