Even though swimming has a reputation as an individual sport, Chad Heiser and Julia Greer insist that their teammates make them better swimmers.
But entire teams cannot win individual awards. Heiser and Greer were named the South Piedmont 3A Conference's male and female swimmers of the year.
The Jay M. Robinson competitors were awarded the honors after their performances at the South Piedmont meet on Jan. 23 at Huntersville's Nomad Aquatic Center. Both Bulldogs teams won the conference championships.
With the two individuals likely advancing beyond the regional meet, Greer, a senior, and Heiser, a junior, will represent Robinson at the 3A state meet on Friday (Feb. 12) at the Triangle Aquatic Center in Cary.
Both swimmers started swimming with the Mecklenburg Aquatic Center's year-round swim program around second grade.
Swimming against their talented 4A counterparts in the ME-CA 7 conference, including North Mecklenburg and Hopewell, was like competing in USA Swimming meets.
Greer was a member of a talented freshman class when she reached Robinson. Greer, Andra Dolniak, Katie Gilbert and Alex Kirk all were ninth-graders who qualified for the state championship meet in either the 200-yard freestyle or 200-medley relays.
Though year-round swimming is more demanding with practice time, Greer, who also qualified individually for regionals as a freshman in the 50-freestyle and 500-freestyle, enjoyed the results she got in high school swimming.
In addition to qualifying for states in the 200-medley and 200-freestyle relays, an out-of-pool experience was just as exciting to Greer during her sophomore year. She was named to the State Mars Hill College Festival Choir, a group that includes about 200-300 students from around the state.
Greer didn't get to participate in the choir event in her junior year because it fell on the same weekend as the regional swim meet.
Not only did she stand out in the pool at regionals - qualifying for the state meet in the 50-freestyle and 200-medley relay - she was also recruited to sing the national anthem prior to the meet.
Over the last two seasons, Greer's list of girls' school records has grown to six events, including Cabarrus County marks in the 50 freestyle, 100 freestyle and the 200-medley relay. As Robinson returned to the South Piedmont 3A this season, Greer won conference titles in those three events and the 200-freestyle relay.
Heiser holds eight boys' school records, most recently in the 500 freestyle, which he set at the conference meet. He also won the 200-individual medley, 400-freestyle relay and 200-medley relay at the meet.
So that his time in the 100 freestyle could be counted toward his power points, the system from which all-conference ratings are determined, Kopelic slid Heiser into the first leg of the 400-freestyle relay at the SPC meet. Heiser swam a time (49.3 seconds) that helped him pick up enough points to narrowly edge Hickory Ridge junior Zack Lambert by one point in the swimmer of the year rankings.
"Zack Lambert is a great opponent and great swimmer," said Heiser. "We've been friends for very long time. He and I like to compete against each other. I really wanted to win."
Heiser hopes to improve on last year's run at the 4A state meet, in which he reached the championship round of the 200-individual medley and the 500 freestyle. He posted personal best times in both as he finished 10th in the medley and 13th in the freestyle.
As a freshman, Heiser did not compete at the regional meet because of an illness and therefore did not qualify for the state meet.
"I predict he'll be even faster next year," says Kopelic. "The more muscle he develops, the faster he gets. He has still yet to realize his potential. (At the conference meet) he found you can be tired, push through it and accomplish great things."