Lake Norman & Mooresville

Wildcat swimmer aims high for senior season

Tyler Hill has lofty goals for his final season at Lake Norman High.

The 17-year-old swimmer had a good season last year, but that success has only left him hungrier for more.

Hill finished third in the 100-yard backstroke at states, swimming a 1:42.43 to earn All-American consideration.

He also had a fourth-place finish in the 200-yard freestyle and won his second consecutive 400-yard freestyle relay state title along with Reed Wheeler, Michael Blinn and Logan Heck.

Hill's goal is to win both his individual events at states while getting automatic All-American time. But he knows that's not going to be easy.

"That'll definitely take some work," he said.

Hill, who met All-American time standards with the 200- and 400-yard freestyle relay teams last season, doesn't care what events he'll swim for Lake Norman as long as he's able to help coach Karen Steger and the Wildcats win.

"I'll do whatever she needs me to do to score the most points," said Hill.

Steger said she knows she can count on the versatile 5-foot-10 Hill to do just that.

"I think he's one of the only ones in the team who has actually swam every event so far this year," she said.

"We're lucky to have him."

Steger said Hill has improved in all of his strokes, especially the butterfly.

Having swum for SwimMAC for the last six years, Hill said, he's used to swimming a little bit of everything.

"I'm good at all the strokes, except for breaststroke," he said. "I'm working on that one right now."

His improvement can also be attributed to his dedication.

Hill can be found at the pool about 20 hours a week, swimming 8,000 to 9,000 yards during each of his six weekly SwimMAC practices during peak training time.

Being a year-round swimmer, Hill isn't required to attend practice with Lake Norman, but he tries to make it to at least one a week.

The senior admits he would like to go to more often but extra training would be counterproductive.

"It's really hard on your body - both mentally and physically - to do that every day," said Hill.

Steger and his teammates like having Hill in practices, as he constantly pushes his fellow Wildcats.

"He's just an amazing person to have around," said Steger. "He sets a good example for every other kid."

Hill, a team captain, is committed to making the team better. He takes his leadership role seriously, cheering his teammates on at meets. Hill said he knows a little encouragement can go a long way in the pool, especially for the younger swimmers.

"Swimming is mostly mental and motivation counts a lot. If you think you can go fast, I believe you'll go far," he said.

Hill has set high goals for the Wildcats this season.

The boys' team, which returns all but one swimmer from last year's squad that finished third behind Providence and North Mecklenburg at states, is undefeated so far this season.

"We're going for first place this year," said Hill. "It's definitely going to take a lot of hard work from everybody to do that."

Although Providence is still strong, the Vikings' talent was split with Hough's opening, leaving Hill optimistic about his team's title chances, especially with its performances in pool.

"We've gotten school records being broken and fast top-times already," he said.

Junior Heck already has broken two school records, in the 100-yard freestyle and 100-yard breaststroke.

Hill, who holds two individual and two relay records, has been bothered by a sciatic problem early in the season, but he said he's almost back to 100 percent. Even with that, he's recorded the Wildcats' fastest times in the 200-free, 200 individual medley, 50-butterfly, 100-butterfly and 500-freestyle.

Junior Heather Isetts broke the 100-butterfly record with a 1:00.26.

Isetts and the rest of the girls, who finished fourth at states last year, also are doing well, having lost only to powerhouse Charlotte Catholic earlier in the season.

Lake Norman will get a tough test tonight against the first-year Huskies and Mallard Creek.

Hill, who has signed to swim at North Carolina next year, is excited about the rest of the season.

"I think this year could be our best yet," he said.