Southsider Voice intern
Andrea Eriksson heard the news July 12 that she had been named to Indiana’s swimming coaching staff for the 2018 Central Zones championships. This is the first time that any Jaguar Aquatics coach has been named to coach at the meet. “It’s a bunch of athletes from different teams being brought together and forced to be a team,” said Eriksson, a graduate of Roncalli. “It’s fun to bring them all together, the fastest ones, and have to race together as a team, instead of as competition.”
Eriksson would not be in this spot if she had not volunteered for the team at its Winter Invitational in 2015. Eriksson and fellow coach Megan Korth were timing at the meet when former Roncalli head coach Ed Merkling came up and talked to them.
“Ed asked us to help coach for the Jags,” Eriksson said. “We started out as helping the team and Ed. Then it grew more and more. Seeing how much more details the kids needed to make it an elite program, like it used to be when I was little. It has definitely changed over the years. I would not be a head coach without the help of Ed.”
Central Zones is the third qualifying championship for swimmers 14 and younger. Boys and girls compete in a variety of events. The Indiana Zone team swims against other zone teams: Lake Erie, Ohio, Michigan, Ozark, Missouri Valley and Arkansas. Eriksson explained the meet in simpler terms.
“You’re not only racing against people in your state, but you’re racing as a state against other states.” This year’s championship in Geneva, Ohio, featured more than 55 events. Eriksson said her swimmers were more excited about the news of her being named coach than she was.
“I was kind of, ‘OK, cool. I get to coach more kids. That’s fun,’ But they were like, ‘Woah! That is a big deal.’ Then, more and more people kept mentioning it was a bigger deal than what I thought it was. Now, they get to brag about it.”
One of the swimmers, 11-year-old Andrew, has swum for Eriksson for two years. He said she is a good coach. “Andrea focuses on technique so that we can nail it down. When you swim your technique is perfect and you don’t have to think about it. You just do it.”
The team swims at the Indiana University Natatorium at IUPUI Monday through Friday. Gabriella, a 12-year-old who has swum for Eriksson for two seasons, said the practices are sometimes hard.
"Whether the practices are easy or not, swimming can be fun, and it’s definitely something to do for the rest of your life,” Eriksson said. Eriksson and the rest of the Indiana Zones coaches ended the season with the team in second place with 3,899 points. There were 786 athletes on Team Indiana. At the meet, two girls won high point awards, one in the 10 and younger age group and one in the 11 and 12 group. After a few weeks off, Eriksson will begin coaching the Jags for the short-course season.