WADSWORTH — Success always catches the eyes of the elite. Swimmers like Wadsworth’s Ellie Surratt looked at Toledo and saw a school that has won Mid-American Conference championships two times in the last four years.
But it wasn’t that success that grabbed the attention of Surratt when she was deciding between the Rockets, Akron, Edinboro and Liberty. The prestige she saw in Toledo’s nursing program coupled with the fact her sister Lexi goes to school there made it a slam dunk on national signing day.
As a result, Surratt is headed out west to continue her athletic and academic career with the Rockets.
“My sister goes to Toledo. Toledo has a great nursing program and it was a little bit closer,” Surratt said. “(Lexi) is also in the nursing program, so she can help me with the studies.”
From an athletic standpoint, it was hard to argue with second-year coach Chris Peters’ vision as.
A three-time record holder at Missouri, he spent six years as an assistant coach at his alma mater from 2004-10, culminating with a four-month stint as the interim head coach before leaving for Ohio State. He was instrumental in shaping the men’s and women’s squads into top-level programs. Every team record was broken during his six seasons and he helped guide 16 athletes to the 2009 and 2010 NCAA championship meets.
On the recruiting side, Peters was responsible for multiple Top-25 recruiting classes. His highest ranking men’s class peaked at No. 16 and the highest women’s class ranked No. 11.
His collegiate career was just as impressive, as he was an eight-time Big 12 championship finalist in the 100-meter and 200 backstroke as well as Missouri’s school record holder in the 200 back. He qualified for the 2000 U.S. Olympic trials and was a senior national qualifier from 1995-2000.
“I’m really excited because he’s starting a new sprint program, so he has a lot of sprinters coming in with big plans for that,” Surratt said. “It’ll be good because 13 of us have signed so far. We should be really good in relays and build up that program quickly. He was my favorite coach out of all the ones I talked to. He was very personable and really cared.”
Surratt also is looking forward to becoming a top-rate swimmer at the next level with the help of Peters.
An All-Gazette selection last season, the senior just missed a trip to state with an eighth-place finish in the 50 free. She was a district qualifier in the 100 free and finished 13th in the event. In the Suburban League, Surratt was a force, winning the 50 free and finishing runner-up in the 100 free.
It’s that speed and willingness to learn that caught Peters’ eyes as he continued his efforts to bring Surratt on board with the Rockets. Now that it has happened, the two are ready to take the next step in bringing Toledo back to prominence.
“He watched some of my races and saw my potential,” Surratt said. “In talking to my coaches here, they said my best swimming is ahead of me. I think I can definitely help in the relays.”
Contact Brad Bournival at email@example.com.