Daniel Hein didn’t expect to be voted as a team captain when the DeKalb-Sycamore boys swimming team’s season started in November.
The sophomore spent the previous year largely getting acclimated to the nuances of high school swimming, following the lead of DeKalb-Sycamore’s upperclassmen.
Nonetheless, his teammates chose to vote him as a captain, a rare accolade for any underclassman in high school athletics.
“I definitely felt more comfortable this year because I had the captain role on my shoulder,” Hein said. “Last year I didn’t know what to expect with the season. I had to act as a leader this year and carry myself with that weight, more composed and more controlled.”
Hein led by example in the pool and helped DeKalb-Sycamore to one of its most successful seasons in program history. Hein finished seventh in the state in the 100-yard butterfly, took third in the 100 backstroke and was a part of the 200 medley relay team that placed seventh. He broke several varsity and pool records in the process.
For his achievements, Hein has been named the 2014 Daily Chronicle Boys Swimmer of the Year. He also received the award as a freshman in 2013.
“When he touched third place and got in the top-three finish (in the 100 backstroke), I was really proud of him for that. As a sophomore, the two guys who touched first and second were both seniors,” DeKalb-Sycamore co-op coach Leah Eames said. “The fact that he got in there and he got it done, I was extremely happy for the way he performed.”
Hein, Ryan Schultz and Dylan Powers all returned from last year’s state-qualifier medley relay team, and the emergence of sophomore Holden Mackey only raised expectations. The team lost one race all season and, according to Hein, their finish at state made for a better overall team experience to end the year.
“We went really fast and the time we went at state might get us All-American honors,” Hein said. “It was definitely good this year that we got up and swam fast.”
There essentially is no offseason for Hein as he will compete with his club team at nationals during the first week of April in North Carolina. He said he’ll be in the pool all summer and is looking to gain back flexibility in his stroke after spending much of the winter getting stronger.
Eames said she’s excited to see what Hein can accomplish in the coming years, especially after he puts in the work to keep refining his technique and work on his turns.
“He’s definitely got a passion for swimming. He’s got a passion for life itself,” Eames said. “He excels to extreme in the classroom; he excels to extreme in the pool. He wants to be the best. He wants to continue to improve. He’s not satisfied where’s he’s at, which I think is a great way to be.”