CONYERS - Although swimming does not garner nearly as much attention as, say, football, two local aquamen have been making tremendous strides to change that.
This season, Eastside's Drew Ellwanger and Heritage's Nathanael Eisenman have achieved All-American status, a rare and glorious feat in an overlooked high school sport.
And as they embark on their biggest meet to date, there is still plenty of work to do.
"It's a good feeling to be able to make an All-American cut, but I still have much bigger goals to achieve," Eisenman said. "But I don't have any added pressure on me because I know I've done everything I can to prepare for this meet and have confidence it will pay off. I know that I'm faster than I've ever been, so all I can do is try my best and see what happens."
Both swimmers have been picking up speed in practice, tapering and trying to stay mentally focused prior to the state meet.
For Ellwanger, the Eastside senior has been anticipating this weekend for quite some time now. His goal is to make the national qualifying time of 57.5 seconds.
"My goal has always been to break one minute, and (another) goal was to become an All-American," Ellwanger said. "But now since I have met both goals, there really is no pressure going into the state meet; no matter what place I get I'm still an All-American."
Ellwanger is coming off a first-place finish for the Eagles on Jan. 22 in the 100-yard breaststroke (1:00.26). As a result, he holds the fastest time for the state high school meet.
Yet whatever happens at state will not deter Ellwanger from his exploration efforts at the collegiate stage. Furthermore, he wants to help the Riptide Medley Relay win USA State next year.
Meanwhile, Eisenman, a junior, won first in both the 100-yard butterfly (53.16) and the 100-yard backstroke (58.14) on Jan. 31 during the Conyers Cup. Earlier this year, he swam a 20.91 in the 50-yard freestyle, topping the Pace Academy Pool record to earn the No. 1 seed in state competition.
Thus far, Eisenman has been receiving a bundle of letters from different universities. His top interest as of now is Auburn, based on its sprinting program and close proximity to home.
Yet as a freshman he did not even anticipate trying out for swimming, mainly because of his lack of confidence in the water. However, his family encouraged him to give it a shot, and the rest, as they say, is history.
"The type of training we do (with the Riptides) just took my sprinting to another level. I have to give lots of credit to my coach, Gregg Ellwanger, because with his encouragement and awesome sprint program we have been able to take my swims from county rankings to national level rankings," Eisenman said. "Also, I give myself credit because I've done tons of research on how to transform my body into the best swimming condition possible.
"And most of all I thank God for giving me the talent and desire that I have," he added. "I believe God will take me places I've never dreamed of. With God nothing is impossible, so with Him I have no limits."
Like Ellwanger, Eisenman's future plans include another lap with the Riptides.
"(Heritage) coach Karl Koenig has been very understanding with me and my training and allowing me to swim with my club instead of practicing with my high school, which I really appreciate," Eisenman said. "Most people around here don't realize what kind of competition there is nationwide, so even though I get all this attention from friends I know I have got a long, long way to go before I get where I want to be.
"As far as next season goes I plan on continuing to work my hardest and hope for the best."
For Ellwanger, the list is long regarding those who have played an integral role in his life, in and out of the water - family, his team, the Covington YMCA, his coaches and girlfriend just to name a few.
"All of (them) have taught me to stay positive, work hard and never give up my goals," he said.
As for making a possible run at the Olympics in the future?
"That's a big goal of mine and I hope to do more than just make it there," Eisenman said.
The 2008-09 GHSA State Swimming Championships (AAAAA) began Thursday at The Westminster School in Atlanta. Ellwanger and Eisenman will compete at 5 p.m. today in preliminaries. Finals start at 1 p.m. Saturday (AAAAA) and 6 p.m.
Jason Murdock can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.