June 29, 2016

Intermittent clouds

Swimming: Versatile Eyssen makes sure Devils don’t miss a beat

Just two short years ago, Nikki Eyssen was running the scoreboard for Brunswick home meets, just calmly waiting for her turn.

While watching her older sister Jamie swim for the Blue Devils, the then-seventh grader daydreamed about the day when she would swim for the Blue and White.

Brunswick freshman Nikki Eyssen sees a dream come true after becoming a member of the girls swim team. (GAZETTE PHOTO BY RON SCHWANE)

Brunswick freshman Nikki Eyssen sees a dream come true after becoming a member of the girls swim team. (GAZETTE PHOTO BY RON SCHWANE)

“I knew a lot of them already, because I was on the deck with all of them,” Eyssen said. “Since I was down there, I got a feel for how the meet goes and what it’s like to be on a team like that.”

Now a Brunswick freshman, Eyssen has turned all those dreams into a reality that even she didn’t expect the first time she jumped into the pool for a high school meet.

While joining a team that returned just about every member of a squad that won the school’s first Northeast Ohio Conference River Division championship a year ago, the 15-year-old has not only found her place — she’s stood out.

The 5-foot-7 swimmer has swam on everything from relays to the sprint freestyle events to the butterfly and the individual medley.

“She is an extremely versatile swimmer, but her strengths are in areas that we needed someone to step into,” Blue Devils coach Erin Crabtree said. “She’s also a racer. She doesn’t like to lose and she works her butt off in practice.”

That became crystal clear at the NOC Championship earlier this month when Eyssen not only swam on the 200-yard medley and 400 free relays that recorded the fastest time out of the River Division schools and third-best overall, she made history.

She broke the program’s oldest individual record clocking 1:00.76 to place in a tie for second overall in the 100 butterfly. The mark broke a record that has been on the books since 2001, when former Blue Devil Rachael Phillips swam a 1:01.79.

“Since I was little, I always wanted to swim it,” Eyssen said of the fly. “I guess it’s always one of those events that have come easy to me.

“It’s been great to only be a freshman (and break the record), because I have a lot improvements to make and I can keep getting better.”

As a second grader she started swimming for SwimStrong in Strongsville where she kept shaving seconds off of her times as she improved.

Altough she sports a demeanor, Eyssen is as focused as they come when the race starts.

“She’s a quiet kid most of the time, but if she feels comfortable, she’s really funny and relaxed,” Crabtree said. “She giggles a lot and is fun to have around, but when it’s business, its business.”

Eyssen, along with fellow freshman Cassandra Pasadyn, have been crucial in Brunswick needing just one more dual-meet win — this Wednesday over Medina — to wrap up its second straight NOC River title.

“Having her and Cassandra has been invaluable to add to our lineup,” Crabtree said. “We can either spread those two out or double them up in an event and kill it. It allows the rest of the girls more flexibility and when can put in the strongest lineup against each team.”

Not too shabby for someone who just a middle-school swimmer with a dream and had to find her niche on an already-strong team.

It’s an experience that Eyssen wouldn’t trade for anything in the World … and she has three more years to go.

“It was different at first, but it’s been a lot of fun,” she said. “I’ve been able to train with some really strong swimmers that have so much experience.

“I was pretty nervous at first, since they were the conference champs, and I knew I had to swim well to be in the lineup.

Now I have goals to try and get under a minute in the 100 fly and see what I can do in the 200 free.”

Contact Dan Brown at sports@medina-gazette.com.