Bishop Eustace's Erica Swesey Defines Student-Athlete
By Bob Grimmie
There was always that one kid in your class who ruined the test grading curve for every one. I'm sure you remember. When the whole class failed, this person managed to get a 94 or higher. Thus ruining the curve and any chance you had at passing.
Well, if Erica Swesey isn't careful, she's going to permanently ruin the curve by which all student athletes are measured. The 17-year-old Bishop Eustace senior is a standout in the academic world as much, if not more so, then she is in the South Jersey field hockey community.
"She's unique in that she's academically excellent, athletically excellent and she's involved in student council," said Bishop Eustace head field hockey coach Alice Penza.
Swesey began playing field hockey as a fifth grader at Christ the King elementary school in Haddonfield. During this time she was experimenting with many different sports such as basketball, tennis, cheerleading and softball. Her two older sisters got her interested in hockey.
"I tried a lot of things when I was little," Swesey said. "I liked it (field hockey) but I wasn't really into it until high school."
Once at Bishop Eustace, Swesey set out become the best field hockey player she could be. The formula would be a simple one, hard work and practice.
"I was more dedicated to it," she said. "I would come home and practice outside my house, I was really goal oriented."
"She's very self motivated," said Penza. "There are times you could go by her house and she'd be out on the front lawn dribbling the ball. That's just the kind of player she is."
In addition to practice time on her own, Swesey began participating in the United States Field Hockey Association ran Futures program. This gave her a chance to compete at a high level against girls from all over New Jersey. In 1996, through selections made by the futures program, Swesey was a member of the under 16 Junior Olympics team. She was a sophomore at the time.
"I kinda didn't think I'd make it, but once you get there it's not a big deal," she said.
As a junior, Swesey was unable to play with the futures program. She was too busy taking courses at MIT through a six-week engineering program. The program consisted of college style lecture classes from 9 am to 5:30. Six areas: entrepreneurship, bio-chemistry, calculus, writing, physics and design engineering were taught through out the program.
"It was the hardest thing I've ever done in my life," she said.
During the summer, Swesey also attended the Duke elite camp, a Stanford day camp and the Trenton State camp that her entire teams goes to. All her experiences in field hockey have made her a well known and sought after commodity to area coaches.
"There's so many people in hockey, you make a lot of friends. When you play their high school teams there's always people to talk to," said Swesey.
"She's very well recognized throughout South Jersey for her play," said Penza.
One of these coaches is a man named Bobby Issar. He runs the North Jersey based Spirit Eagles who are unbeaten since 1994. At Thanksgiving Swesey will be traveling to West Palm Springs to play in National Hockey Fest with them.
"He's a great coach," Swesey says of Issar. "He's really enthusiastic and serious."
As for this season, Swesey is a captain and leads her team in scoring after two games. In this, her third season as a varsity player, she has her eyes focused on a state championship.
"That's my goal for the team. I'm more team oriented then individually," she said.
Penza points out that Swesey is as valuable as a leader as she is on the field. The captain is known for having team meetings and gatherings at her house and has become the girl that younger teammates look up to.
When Penza asked a sophomore to evaluate her personal performance she responded with "Well, I'm not Erica."
"She's the person who brings adhesiveness to the team." Said Penza.
Of course, Swesey also challenges herself academically through out the year. In addition to her regular schedule, which boasts three advanced placement and one honors class, she also participates in the Cumme Laude program. This is an extra-curriculum event that requires Swesey to prepare a 60-page paper on the Cherokee Indians, a topic she selected. The difficulty level of this program is evident by the fact that of the 28 people who initially intended to complete it, only eight remain.
It seems as this will be just one more area in which Swesey will be in the elite.