In the fast lane

by Beth Lipton, BSJ '11
Video by Kevin Riddell, MA'09, and Joel Rower, BSC'10

Junior Rachel Heim knows that hard work is essential to success.

"Whatever she does, whether it's athletically related, academically related or socially related, she commits to it and sees it through," says Greg Werner, swimming and diving head coach.

Ohio Swimming and Diving finished in third place at the 2010 Mid-American Conference Championships in February, with Heim earning the title of Swimmer of the Year.

Originally from San Diego, Heim began swimming at an early age because her mother was concerned about her safety. "I grew up near the ocean, and my dad was always out on a boat," Heim says. "My mom just wanted me to be water-safe."

Determination motivated Heim beyond this original goal: She began swimming competitively at 5 years old. She grew to love the sport, and in high school, was named All-American and became a Junior National qualifier.

When it came time to choose a college, Heim was drawn to Ohio University although it was so far from home. "When I got out here and saw the campus and met the team, I found it was the right place for me," Heim says.

As a student, Heim has excelled both athletically and academically. Last year, she made the Olympic Trials and was a conference champion in two events. This year, she finished first in the 200 Butterfly, 100 Butterfly and 100 Backstroke. She competed on the winning 200 Free Relay team. She has taken first nine times at the MAC championships. "I've done more than I dreamed I could," she says.

A biochemistry major, Heim balances her schoolwork with the demands of being a student athlete. She is actively involved with the sports ministry Athletes in Action. "The classes are pretty challenging," Heim says, adding that juggling the time spent in the labs can be difficult. "While I generally take 16 or 17 hours (of classes), the hours that I'm actually spending in class and in lab can be in the 20s."

Werner says Heim should continue pushing herself as she pursues her dreams. "I like her intensity, I like her desire, I like her focus," he says. "I've seen her mature into a leader, someone who is respected both in and out of the pool."