Not every club swimmer ends up swimming for their high school. Caleb Bergstrom never considered missing his chance.
Before he entered Ewing High School, he had watched his all-star brother Micah’s experience with great anticipation of his own career to come. He followed him to the Blue Devils and now heads into his senior season with three years of his own experiences.
“It is more common to see some club swimmers not even bother with their high school team,” Bergstrom said. “I saw the way Micah did it. He helped make a name for the Ewing High swim team. It wasn’t that known throughout Ewing High School. When Micah graduated, I wanted to join the team and continue that legacy and make sure people knew that Ewing High School has a swim team and we enjoy it.”
Bergstrom, who swims for the Eastern Express club team, has been a top scorer for the Blue Devils through his first three years and is looking forward to a grand send-off. Ewing won’t be very happy to see him graduate.
“His name is under every record except one,” said Ewing second-year head coach Erin Devlin. “He’s certainly made his mark on Ewing and Ewing swimming history. I think we’ll be seeing his name on that record board for many years to come.”
Bergstrom is exploring where he can continue his swimming career in college next year, but first he has some big goals for his final season with the Blue Devils. He will be chasing down the one record in the 100 breaststroke that he still needs, while also looking to set an example for the less experienced swimmers.
“It’s a little different now that I’m a senior,” Bergstrom said. “Being a senior and captain helps with giving advice to other swimmers. They take me more seriously than maybe a junior or senior would have when I was a younger swimmer.”
He is one of just four seniors on a young Ewing roster this year. He and fellow seniors Kamil Cwikla and Betty Bayley are captains this year, though Bergstrom has always stood out for the team since his freshman year.
“I really looked up to my older brother before I was on the team,” Bergstrom said. “He graduated before I was able to join. Once I joined, I didn’t have too many people to look up. Some of the people who swam with Micah and swam with me helped me ease into it as a freshman.”
Bergstrom was on the pool deck for the first week of practice to help start to bring along the less experienced swimmers. Ewing has several newcomers this year, which will help as they try to build up their program.
Ewing’s program has seven boys and 18 girls. Members are: Anujin Ariunbold, Andrew Ashton, Tuguldur Bayarerdene, Bayley, Bergstrom, Tabitha Bergstrom, Rylee Briggs, LeeAnn Cleckner, Cwikla, Emily Czelusniak, Carissa Frihart, Azzaya Galsandum, Taylor Green, Emily Greschak, Natalie Kulpa, Michael Montagna, Cara Pemberton, Nora Penner, Valery Perez-Sierra, Alexander Renk, Michael Riehl, Luzmaria Rojas, Olivia Ruch, Luke Shoplock and Ryan Webster.
“Our boys will definitely have a strong relay,” Devlin said. “Luke Shoplock is coming back. He’s a summer swimmer. He’s a strong backstroker for us. Kamil Cwikla, he’ll be swimming distance freestyle for us this year. Kamil has stepped up as a leader this year as one of our captains as well. He began his swimming career with no experience and he’s stepped up now as a leader.”
Bergstrom says he is hungry to return and see what he can do for an encore.
The girls have one swimmer, Olivia Ruch, who took the year off due to injury. She’s returning for her junior year, and Devlin expects that she will be a standout swimmer to watch, particularly in breaststroke events.
“Thankfully we have enough girls to fill most of our races, hopefully,” Devlin said. “On the boys side, we won’t be able to fill the lanes in every event. We have boys who will step up for their particular strokes and events.”
Big or small, the Blue Devils team has always been something that Bergstrom has valued. Each year has brought a little different dynamic and make-up.
Bergstrom finds enjoyment no matter where he swims, whether it’s for the Eastern Express, for the high school team, or even with the Trenton Country Club summer team. He’s happy to improve any team he can.
“He’s been helping out,” Devlin said. “He’s been on the pool deck helping out with technique and helping a lot of other swimmers on the team and giving them advice and pointers.
Ewing is hoping any pointers they get will lead to significant improvement for its swimmers. They will measure some of their success by how much time their swimmers drop in their events. Bergstrom sees a lot of potential in this year’s group.
“It looks pretty good,” he said. “There are a lot of familiar faces, and a decent amount of new faces. And a lot of them aren’t freshmen, which is good.”
Bergstrom’s greatest value to Ewing is his unmatched flexibility. He can be used in any event to score points. The freestyle events show a particularly unique versatility. Not only was he an individual state championship qualifier in the 500 freestyle last year, he came close to qualifying in the 50 free.
“I definitely think that’s one of my better abilities is being able to hit a really good solid 50 free, and also be able to slow it down and pace out,” Bergstrom said. “That’s not something you see a lot of swimmers are able to do. I’m pleased it’s something I’m able to do.”
Bergstrom’s top event remains the 100 butterfly. He’s also strong in the 200 fly, but that event is only swum in club meets, not high school.
“I like to use my races in high school for practicing race strategies for how I would do it for Eastern Express or any of my other events,” Bergstrom said. “Swimming the events a lot helps me focus on how I’m doing and how I’m racing. Watching me helps out some of the not so experienced swimmers too. They get to see how the races should be done.”
Bergstrom will be gearing up for a shot at the school record in the 100 breaststroke throughout the season. He can use the toughest meets of the year for some of the competition and excitement that drives him.
“I would say counties is a big meet I look forward to,” Bergstrom said. “I really enjoy racing the kids in counties. They’re a great group of kids from all around Mercer County. It’s always fun at counties. Last year was first year at states. I didn’t know what to expect there.”
Bergstrom says he is hungry to return and see what he can do for an encore. The goal this year is for him to reach states in two events and represent Ewing proudly again.
“I’m definitely looking forward to having Caleb back this year and watching him dominate in the pool again,” Devlin said. “It’s always fun watching him compete and be a leader for our team and scoring points for our team.”