2021 Northwest Herald Girls Swimmer of the Year: Richmond-Burton’s Eleni Gewalt

Richmond-Burton's Eleni Gewalt swims in the consolation heat of the 100-yard breaststroke during the IHSA Girls State Swimming and Diving Championships at FMC Natatorium in Westmont on Saturday, Nov. 13, 2021.

Richmond-Burton’s Eleni Gewalt shines in the brightest moments.

Richmond-Burton doesn’t have a girls swim team, so Gewalt’s opportunities to compete during the high school swimming season are limited to sectionals and – if she qualifies – the state meet.

Gewalt qualified for the state meet for the third time in her career this season – there was no state meet last season because of COVID-19 – and competed in the finals for both of her events.

She finished seventh in the 100-yard breaststroke final with a time of 1 minute, 3.17 seconds and earned a 12th-place finish in the 100 freestyle at 52.41 seconds. Gewalt finished her career with three state medals.

Gewalt, who trains with the Pleasant Prairie Patriots in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin, finished second in the 100 breaststroke (1:04.11) at the Barrington Sectional and third at the 100 free (52.19).

The senior will continue her swimming career at the University of Arizona next season.

For her accomplishments, Gewalt is the Northwest Herald Girls Swimmer of the Year for the second consecutive season, chosen by the sports staff. Gewalt spoke to sports writer Michal Dwojak about her postseason, her love of cats and what she’s looking forward to at college.

What will you remember most about your senior season?

Gewalt: Probably all the support that I got from my school. My school, my teachers were way more hyped about me going to state than it has been in the past because sports are getting back to normal. So everyone was really excited. It made me feel good because I could do something for the school and do what I love.

What was it like competing this year?

Gewalt: I really enjoyed competing this year because it kind of felt more like before the pandemic. Yes, you still had to wear masks, but masks have become a part of life. I feel like everyone was hyped to swim because there was no state meet last year, so it made the whole environment super exciting.

When and why did you start swimming?

Gewalt: My mom threw me into swim lessons because she wanted me to be comfortable in the water, and I really enjoyed it. I tried other sports, and I’m not coordinated, I wasn’t really good at any other sports. I feel like it always went back to swimming. It was something that I loved. It’s come easy to me, and I’ve had fun with it.

Do you have any superstitions before you compete in a race?

Gewalt: I always have my nails painted and it varies, but it’s usually a combination of black and pink. Also, before I swim behind the blocks, I do jumps, shake and crack my ankles a lot. I push my goggles close to my face as tight as they can go. I’ve always been terrified that my goggles are going to come off, so I always make sure that they’re really tight to my face.

If you could be any animal, which would you be?

Gewalt: Probably a cat because I love cats and they kind of do nothing. Sometimes they want to be petted, sometimes they don’t, and I feel like that’s me. Sometimes I’ll give someone a hug, but sometimes I don’t need to give someone a hug, so sometimes I feel like that. They just chill all day, walk around, sleep and take naps all the time.

If you could be any superhero, which super power would you want?

Gewalt: I would probably be invisible so I can scare people, because I love jump scaring people and also I want to hear what people are talking about and wouldn’t know that I’m there. I just think it would be fun, and I can go around living my life and no one would know that. I can do my own thing.

What’s your favorite place to eat?

Gewalt: Currently Raising Cane’s because I’m in love with the Texas toast that they give you. I replace the coleslaw with another piece of bread and sometimes when I’m feeling it, I’ll get extra bread on the side because the bread is so good. It’s like the best bread from a place.

If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?

Gewalt: Probably Santorini because the water is so clear and all the little houses and roads. I would want to go to Greece and Santorini.

Who is your favorite athlete?

Gewalt: I really love Sam Hartman, he’s the quarterback at Wake Forest. I watched him on the show on Netflix “QB1: Beyond the Lights,” and it followed him during his senior year of high school playing football and everything. He’s gorgeous. He’s the prettiest man on the planet.

What is something that you can’t live without?

Gewalt: I think it’s cats. It sounds kind of weird, but I have three cats and I love them. My family also fosters cats, and so I think they’re so cute and when you’re stressed, you can go play with the cats. They make life more happy. You can’t be sad or mad when you’re with a cat.

What is something that you wish you were good at?

Gewalt: Other sports, like sports that include a ball. My sister is a basketball player and wants me to play all these other sports with her, and I’m so uncoordinated, it’s embarrassing a little bit. I wish I was a little bit better so I could be a better all-around athlete.

What are you looking forward to?

Gewalt: I’m really looking forward to my college career. I just signed last week to swim for the University of Arizona, and I’m just really looking forward to getting out there and just doing the best that I can. I love the team, love the location, love everything about this school. I’m really excited to get out there and get started with my swim career and hopefully be successful.