DeKALB – Finishing second day-after-day to a freshman isn’t always easy for veterans on the DeKalb-Sycamore co-op swim team.
But with freshman Daniel Hein on the team, they’ve had to learn to take the beatings in stride.
“He’s an amazing athlete,” senior Marc Dubrick said.
Hein has been a sensation for the Barbs this season, winning most of his races. In some dual meets, coach Leah Eames puts him against opponents’ best swimmer because she knows he’ll have a legitimate shot to win.
“He’s just put in a ton of effort, and I think that’s why he’s been dropping his times so much,” Eames said.
Hein was by no means an unknown entity coming into the season – several of the swimmers knew of his ability from club swimming.
“It was hard last year to watch him when he was only in eighth grade, thinking, ‘We could really use him on our team,’” junior Ryan Schultz said. “I was expecting him to do really well this year.”
But the speed at which he’s succeeded has surpassed expectations, swimming state qualifying times in the 100-yard backstroke and 100 butterfly and breaking the meet record at the Pretzel Invite early in the season as a part of the 800 freestyle relay team.
Even with all of his individual accomplishments this season, Hein pointed to that record-breaking relay as the highlight of his season thus far.
“That got me fired up for the season,” he said. “I was not expecting to go some of the times I have gone … It’s really surprised me and has boosted my confidence.”
Hein knows he’ll drop those times even more as the sectional meet nears. The Barbs still have to taper, which will happen in the weeks leading up to the mid-February postseason meet.
He doesn’t really know what to expect out of his times at that point, but Hein does know that what he accomplishes over the next two months will set the bar for the rest of his high school career.
“I’m very pleased with what I’ve done so far,” Hein said. “I really don’t know what to expect. I’m just expecting a pretty decent time drop. That’ll just set me up for the coming years to see what I can taper down to.”