The Elyria Catholic swim program is in some pretty good hands with Evann Heidersbach and Michael Weber. The Panthers graduated some good swimmers last June, but the talent and passion of the two juniors should keep EC firing on all cylinders this season.
Heidersbach, a five-time Division II All-Ohioan, is a two-time state qualifier in both the 50-meter freestyle and 100 free. Weber was a member of the EC boys 200 free relay that advanced to the Division I state meet last winter. He was a district qualifier in the 200 individual medley and 100 free.
Heidersbach was instrumental in the Elyria Catholic girls` team finish at the state meet the past two years. The Panthers were sixth last season in Division II after a fifth place finish in 2005-06.
"I`m very excited about the season," said Heidersbach, who stands 5-foot-8 and weighs 120 pounds. "A lot of the swimmers who swam on the Lorain Y team with me, like Brooke Bartlebaugh, Rachel Buckley and Caroline Hamp and Kelly O`Dell, are now with us. It`s almost going to be like last year. I`m going to miss Kay Weber and Paige Samek so much. They`re never going to be replaced, but I still am going to have some awesome people to swim with. It`s going to be a great year."
Last year, Heidersbach earned fourth at state as a member of the 200 free (1:40.81) and 400 free (3:41.61) relays. Individually, she was ninth in the 50 free (24.62) and ninth in the 100 free (54.30). She holds team records in the 100 free (53.49) and 200 free (1:57.44).
"I think we`re going to be very good this year," said Heidersbach, who has a 4.5 grade-point average. "We`re not such a freestyle-dominated team now. We`re really all the strokes. That is a big difference from last year. Diving is also improved. We have six, seven divers.
"I`m so excited. I can`t believe that this season is already here. I can`t believe I`m already a junior. It fees like yesterday it was my first practice at EC. Now, I`m halfway done."
Elyria Catholic coach Jack Dibee is happy to have Heidersbach two more seasons.
"Evann`s a very hard worker," said Dibee. "She`s already had so much success that she can be focused and a little more relaxed because she knows what she wants and how to get there. She`s got the desire and dedication to succeed.
"She`s another one who is strong in a lot of different events. I know this year she wants to keep working on her 200 free and keep that up there with her 50 free and 100 free in terms of competitiveness. She`s got a very strong backstroke, too. She`s someone who at least four solid events and is going to be a big part of our relays again."
The success on the girls side of the program permeated to the boys side.
"We`ve all been training very hard," said Weber. "We don`t say at practice that we`re training for the state meet, but you can tell it`s in the air."
Last winter certainly had an impact on Weber`s perspective.
The Panthers qualified to Canton at-large and finished 24th in 1:30.94. The Panthers were eighth at the CSU district and earned one of the state`s 11 at-large berths. No small accomplishment given the fact that the field is so dominated by Division I powerhouses like Cincinnati St. Xavier.
"Jack (Dibee) and Todd (Baumgartner) both have lofty goals for the team," said Weber, who is 6-2 and weighs 175. "The expect a lot out of us. They`ve been setting up good workouts. They know that we can do it. They`re trying to keep us motivated."
Elyria Catholic returns three of its four relay legs from last year`s 200 free relay - Weber, senior Keith Everhart and junior Jimmy Reitenbach. Nick Poling, the lone senior on the relay last year, graduated in June. The 200 free relay was first state qualifier for the EC boys in the nine-year history of the program.
Freshman Brian Koziel is one of the top contenders to fill the vacancy.
"Jack and Todd keep it fun," said Weber. "It`s not straight business all the time. Jack goofs around a lot. He`s fun. But, at the same time, he`s focused on making us practice hard."
Elyria Catholic is in its second full season training at Oberlin College. The Panthers train five days a week, Monday through Thursday, and on Sunday. Each team workout is 90 minutes in length.
Weber finished second at the Lakewood sectional in the 200 IM (2:08.01) and was 17th at the Cleveland State district in a school-record 2:05.63. He was 37th at CSU in the 100 free (50.52).
"Last year was an eye-opener," said Weber. "When I saw that my times were competitive with the best kids from Northeast Ohio, it motivated me. It was like, â€˜Wow, I can do something with this.`"
In addition to the 200 IM, Weber holds school records in the 100 breast (1:06.66) and 200 free (1:52.49), as well as a member of all three relays.
"Mike is just so talented in a lot of different events," said Dibee. "There`s not an event you can put him in and not expect something out of him. Anything solid we`re putting together Mike`s a big part of it. He`s just one of those competitors who just rises to any challenge. Some of his swims have come from just trying not to get beat by someone.
"He`s matured a lot. He knows what the expectations are and he`s helped bring other people along to help try reach pretty high goals."
Contact Paul Heyse at 329-7135 or email@example.com.