Last season, Chad Heiser had a rough year when it came to training - working out with both his year-round and the Jay M. Robinson swimming teams.
But the work he put in paid off, having a breakout season and dominating the South Piedmont Conference along the way. He placed in the top three in four events at regionals before finishing fourth in the 100-breast and second in the 200-freestyle at states.
"It felt really great to be able to do that well," said Heiser.
The senior is back and ready to challenge for a state title - or two.
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"I don't want to sound cocky, but I hope to get a few first-places in individuals, but I'm not entirely sure what I want to swim at states yet," said Heiser. "By states, I want to have some junior national cuts."
Bulldogs coach Beverly Kopelic said Heiser is well-positioned to meet those goals.
She explained that what makes Heiser such a good swimmer is how well-rounded he is.
"He can swim distance and he can sprint," she said. "From our team's perspective, that's very helpful."
Heiser said he wants to focus on the breaststroke, individual medley and the 200-freestyle, which he feels give him the best chance to make junior national cuts.
Heiser doesn't just stand out in the pool, as he's one of the leaders on the talented squad.
"He motivates his teammates," said Kopelic. "He'll take the time to work with one of them on a stroke or a turn. Because his team knows how fast he is, they step up, too ... they feed off of each other."
Heiser, who's one of the team captains, also shows his team what it takes to be successful in the pool.
The defending SPC Swimmer of the Year works out at least three-and-a-half hours a day, swimming an average of 8,000 to 9,000 yards. During the holiday break, that work intensifies.
"It will probably be the hardest two weeks of my life," said Heiser.
But Heiser, who swims year-round with SwimMAC, admits that being successful is not just about how good of shape you are in, but also about your mentality.
"My dedication to the sport helps, but when I get to a meet I focus on all my events," he said.
Heiser does that by listening to rock and even some rap as well as talking to his teammates to stay loose and relaxed.
So far, that seems to have worked, as Heiser has attracted interest from colleges like Drexel, N.C. State and West Virginia while holding eight school records - five individual (200 free, 200 IM, 100 free, 500 free, 100 breast) and three relay best-times (200 medley, 200 free and 400 free).
"I always wanted to hold a lot of records - at least on this team," the 17-year-old said, adding that he could use some more. "I want to get all the ones that I can this year."
Although he would like to break more individual records, the medley record might mean more to him.
"That means that our team has gotten faster, which I would really be excited about," said Heiser.
He said he's already noticed the team as a whole, which was a combined 14-0 record in the regular season last year, has gotten even faster.
Heiser pointed out that Ryan Buddendeck, Griffin Fiedler, Darren Kataja, Hunter Rogers and Addison White have stepped up tremendously for the Bulldogs this year.
He added that he hopes for the team to make it to states and for the relays to place high. But the main goal for now is to repeat as conference champions.
"I think we have a really good chance," said Heiser.
Winning another SPC title would be huge, as Robinson went six seasons before winning one last season.
"We were really excited," recalled Heiser. "If we can do it again this year, it would be amazing."
Robinson is on the right path to do so, starting off the season 4-0.
Heiser, who's been swimming since age 4 and started doing so year-round at 8, should be key in whether the Bulldogs are able to reach those goals.