Heritage makes big splash at state

ATLANTA - The Heritage boys swim team certainly proved its worth Saturday at Westminster in the state swimming meet.

The Heritage 200-yard freestyle relay - composed of Matt Shamp, Anthony Bazzani, Dylan Johnson and Nathanael Eisenman - swam its way to a second place finish with an impressive time of 1:27.24. It ended with an astounding seventh-to-second-place finish by the last two swimmers, Johnson and Eisenman, earning them All-American consideration, especially after placing ninth last year.

"This race simply was the icing on the cake. It was just such an amazing race and I cannot begin to tell you how exciting it was to watch," Heritage coach Karl Koenig said. "Matt led us off with a 23.11 and we were right in the mix. Anthony swam the second leg in 22.78.

"Matt and Anthony kept us in the race and then Dylan and Nathanael took us home," he added. "Out of all teams in the finals, Dylan and Nathanael swam the fastest third and fourth legs, respectively. Dylan swam a 21.49 and Nathanael swam a 19.86. Nathanael simply ran out of pool and we finished in second; however, these four young men have nothing to hang their heads about."

Not to be forgotten, the Rockdale girls and Salem boys teams represented their programs admirably.

The Lady Bulldogs swam in all three relays, while the Seminoles competed in three relays, qualifying two individual swimmers.

Salem's Matt Tibbetts reached the finals, placing 10th overall in the butterfly (53.89) and 12th in the breaststroke (1:00.93).

Eastside's Drew Ellwanger clinched second place in the breaststroke (58.72).

Heritage's Nathanael Eisenman, a junior, made waves, finishing first with a new record in the 50-yard freestyle with a time of 20.46 seconds, breaking the mark previously held by Kevin Erndl in 1998 (20.58).

"Nathanael simply swam an awesome race. But (the record) is gone now and (his) name will be on the board until someone tops that time," Koenig said. "He said that his flip turn wasn't very good but that didn't keep him from his goal."

Eisenman swam a 21.11 in the preliminaries to qualify for first in the 50-yard freestyle. He captured second place in the 100-yard freestyle (46.24).

Johnson finished 10th in the 50-yard freestyle (22.25) for the Patriots.

"Heritage was well-represented at the state swim meet this weekend," Koenig said. "I do not have the words to describe just how awesome Nathanael, Dylan, Matt and Anthony swam."

With just four swimmers, Heritage finished 10th overall out of 434 teams. In addition, five of the teams finishing ahead of the Patriots are private schools, making the feat all the more spectacular.

The Heritage boys 200-yard medley relay earned 16th place to reach the finals with a time of 1:45.49 in the prelims. In the first heat of the first event of the finals, the Patriots finished 12th with a mark of 1:42.38, slicing three seconds off their time in the prelims.

"It was amazing. Every swimmer dropped time," Koenig said. "Anthony and Dylan dropped over a second each in the back and breaststroke, respectively, and Matt dropped almost a second in the free. The funniest thing is that on Friday after they'd made the finals in 16th place, the guys wanted to scratch (not swim the medley in the finals) but (we) talked them into it.

"I think it was one of the best decisions of the weekend because this race really set the tone for the finals."

Johnson swam a 22.48 in the prelims to qualify for 13th in the 50-yard freestyle.

Overall, Eisenman, Johnson, Shamp and Bazzani tallied 88 points at the state meet.

"The 200-yard free relay was the end of a great meet for the guys," Koenig said. "They each worked extremely hard and this work paid off. I wish I could bottle and sell the excitement that we all felt during each of these races.

"These are very special young men."

Jason Murdock can be reached at jason.murdock@rockdalecitizen.com.