By GREG KEIM
THE GOSHEN NEWS
Where else but in the basketball-crazed state of Indiana would a swimming coach use a round ball reference to describe one of his competitors?
Such was the case when Goshen High School coach Nate Duell was talking about senior Hayley Ronci as she signed a national letter of intent to continue her athletic and academic careers at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, Illinois.
“If Haley’s sport was basketball she would be a gym rat,” Duell said. “Since it’s swimming I refer to her as a pool rat. She spends all the extra time she can in the pool. She loves practice. That will help her at the next level. Being a practice swimmer at the college level is huge.”
A family connection is how Ronci found out about the school.
“My grandmother is a sponsor at the school and she is the one who first told me about Olivet Nazarene,” Ronci said. “I started looking at the school and it was a nice small size. It also has a huge nursing program, which is what I want to study.”
Bourbonnais is 50 miles south of Chicago.
Olivet Nazarene was founded in 1907, but this past season was the first year for swimming. Scott Teeters is the head coach and the former NCAA Division I coach at Eastern Michigan University and Oakland University (located in Rochester, Michigan) led the Tigers to three national championships and 21 All-American finishes in the recent national championship meet at Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
Notre Dame and Millikin University (located in Decatur, Illinois) were other schools Ronci looked at.
“The swim team at Olivet was very friendly. They seemed to be very open in helping me get the information I needed to make my decision,” Ronci said. “One thing I know is practices are going to be harder. Colleges have three hours of practice time where in high school we were limited to two.”
Ronci finished eighth in the 500-yard freestyle (5:36.04) and 10th in the 200 free (2:10.60) at this season’s NLC meet. In the sectional, she was fourth in the 500 (5:26.40) and 11th in the 200 (2:09.67).
Ronci only swam one season for the Redskins after her family moved from California.
“My dad has family here,” she said. “He grew up in Goshen and graduated from Concord High School.”
Her swimming career began by chance.
“The school sent flyers around for different sports. I had a couple of friends swimming and they seemed to enjoy it,” she said. “I went to the CIM, which is the California version of the Indiana state meet, my sophomore and junior years. I finished in the top 20 both times.”
She knows she will need to improve to compete in college.
“One of the things I need is to improve my timing on my starts,” Ronci said. “My stroke techniques also need to get better.”
Ronci is getting a full ride to Olivet Nazarene.
“The scholarship is half athletic and half academic,” she said.
Duell added, “In some ways I feel guilty taking any credit for this. I just show them the way and they do all the work. One area where I feel she has the chance to excel in college in the longer events like the 1,000 or the 1,650 freestyles.”