High school swimming

Tom Batters
Nick Zerbonia

First one in, last one out.

It might be a bit of a cliché, but Richwoods swimming coach Lynn Thompson said the phrase definitely applies to senior Nick Zerbonia, who she calls one of the hardest working athletes on her team.

“You don’t see a lot of the behind-the-scenes stuff. But, he truly is always one of the first ones in the pool, and one of the last ones to come out at the end of practice,” she said. “He works so hard.”

Zerbonia, who is eyeing a state appearance in the 500 and two relays, started swimming when he was eight years old.

By the time he was nine, he started swimming year-round and he said he hit a “peak.”

The high peak, however, was followed by a low valley.

When he was 11 years old, he developed breathing problems and his swimming suffered a setback. He said he could no longer swim without having to come out of the pool because he could not catch his breath.

Doctors were puzzled after concluding that it was not asthma.

It turned out that Zerbonia had a problem with his right artery that required surgery. He had surgery when he was 13, and noticed an almost immediate turnaround.

“It took me a couple months to get back in the swing of things, but I felt so much better,” he said.

Zerbonia said he would like to qualify for the state meet in the 500-fresstyle, an event that also includes his teammate (defending state champion Matt Elliott), and some of the state’s other top swimmers.

“The cut is going to be pretty fast in that event,” Thompson said. “But, if he keeps working hard, he just might be able to do it.”

Swimming notes

•  Dunlap/IVC beat Sacred-Heart Griffin, 90-79, Thursday. Nathan Eppel and Will Chi were individual event winners.

• Peoria Notre Dame junior Jake Bridenbaugh won the 100 butterfly and swam on the winning free relays in a 145-36 victory at Peoria Central. Bridenbaugh, whose parents had moved to Singapore because of a Caterpillar Inc. work transfer, was declared ineligible for the first semester while his residency status was clarified. Friday was his first meet after regaining IHSA eligibility.