The Dexter boys’ swimming and diving team have won three consecutive Division 2 State Championships and have placed in the top four at States eight consecutive years. Senior Niklas Eberly has been on the two previous state championship teams and will be a key contributor this year as the Dexter seniors go for a career sweep.
“The swimmers change over the years, but the culture and system that Coach (Michael) McHugh has built never leaves,” says Eberly, one of those talented swimmers who dedicates himself to his favorite sport, wins titles and then leaves.
Eberly will be leaving for warmer water next year.
He is signed, sealed and almost delivered to Auburn University where he will swim and study business.
“I am so excited to be continuing my swimming career at an amazing school in the SEC,” says Niklas, the son of Anna and Paul Eberly.
But first things, first. And that’s helping to continue what he helped start as a freshman at Dexter.
“So many things make Dexter swimming successful,” Eberly says. “The rigorous training, CW, DCAC, the hard work mentality of my teammates, and the coaching staff.”
Because of this, the bar is always set high at Dexter. In fact, it’s gotten to the point where the goal is always the same – that’s what happens when you win three state titles in a row.
“We all want to win our fourth States,” Eberly says. “My personal goals are to win both the 100 fly and 50 free at States, and in the 100 fly break the D2 state record (47.5 seconds).”
Dexter is doing very well this season despite competing in the tough SEC which includes D-1 defending state champion Skyline, Pioneer (a team that could win the D-1 title this year), Saline and Huron.
“This year we have a very young team and a huge under class,” Eberly says. “So far we have put up great meets against D-1 schools, so I think by the time States comes we’ll be ready for it.”
Eberly started swimming at the end of sixth grade – after he suffered two concussions and a fractured neck playing hockey. It was love at first splash.
“After my first swim practice I fell in love with it, it just felt like the sport I needed to be in,” he says. “In the summer after seventh grade, I went to a swim camp at the University of Michigan. At the camp there were several coaches from Club Wolverine. They told me if I wanted to take swimming to the next level I should come to CW. That’s when I made the goal of swimming for a D1 college, and I transferred clubs from Pinckney to Club Wolverine.”
It was game on for Eberly.
He attended Pinckney High School as a freshman and was All-State after finishing seventh in the 500 free with a time of 4:47, and 16th in the 200 free with a time of 1:46. He switched to Dexter after his freshman year.
As a Dreadnaught, Eberly was a member of the winning 200 medley relay with a time of 1:34.4; took second in the 200 free with a time of 1:41.4; was second in the 100 fly with a time of 50.5; and touched second as a member of the 400 free relay with a time of 3:09.2. The medley was All-American, and all four finishes were All-State swims.
Last year as a junior, Eberly took first in the 200 free with a time of 1:39.9; first in the 100 fly with a time of 48.8; first in the 200 free relay with a time of 1:24.9, and second in the 400 free relay with a time of 3:07.7 – one place from a four-event sweep. All four events were All-State swims, and the 100 fly and 200 free relay were All-American.
The individual success all helped add up to a state championship – times two for Eberly.
“Winning states is so relieving,” he said. “You go into the meet knowing your team has a shot but everyone has to pull their own weight. Throughout the meet your coach is keeping count and telling you how many more points you need. And when the anchor finishes his leg on the 400 free relay, you look over at McHugh and he’s dancing – that is how I found out we won the last two years.”
McHugh will certainly bring his dancing shoes to this year’s state finals in March. It’s up to Eberly and his teammates to rock the joint and cue the music. Maybe the Beatles’ “I Saw Her Standing There” would be appropriate – with Paul’s signature 1-2-3-4 counting it off.