Nova Southeastern University’s Erin Black said she didn’t start “budding” as a swimmer until last year, and her career history backs up her claim.
She never won a state title at Fort Myers’ Bishop Verot, and she decided to transfer after two years at Division I Florida Gulf Coast.
But as a junior last season, Black won a Division II national championship in the 500-yard freestyle, and she credits Nova coach Hollie Bonewit-Cron with helping her win the title.
“Hollie is the whole reason I’m here,” said Black, who is graduating in May with a degree in exercise and sport science. “She boosted my confidence. She listens to me, she helps me, and she really knows what she’s talking about.
“I give her 100 percent credit.”
Black wept as she spoke of her coach, who still finds time to train her team despite giving birth four months ago to her daughter, Evalyn.
But Black also lights up when she thinks of the national meet last March in Mansfield, Texas.
“There’s a video of me swimming the 500, and I was behind until the last 200 yards,” Black said. “You could see Hollie jumping around [in the background].
“I remember hitting the wall and immediately looking for her — and she wasn’t where she was during the race. And I thought: ‘Oh my God, she missed it.’ ”
As it turns out, her coach had sprinted to her lane and was right in front of Black with an emphatic message.
“What are you waiting for?” the coach asked. “Get out of the pool, and give me a hug!”
Bonewit-Cron, who started Nova’s program four years ago and helped Black become the school’s first swim champion, said the hug was special.
“It was wet, but it was so worth it,” she said. “Knowing everything Erin had sacrificed and committed to getting there, that hug meant a lot to me, and I think it meant a lot to her, too.”
Black, the 2012 Sunshine State Conference Swimmer of the Year, said the win wasn’t just for her — it was for her teammates and the school they represent.
Now that she is a senior, though, she would love to repeat. The next step for Black and the entire Nova swim team is the conference championships Feb. 13-16 at Clearwater.
Black, who is one of six seniors on the Nova women’s team, will compete in three freestyle events — she and her coach will pick between the 200, 500, 1,000 and the mile — and up to three relays.
She already has qualified for all those events at nationals, set for March 6-9 in Birmingham, Ala.
After college, Black wants to follow in the footsteps of her father, Larry, 54, who is a physician. She wants to go to graduate school and enter a medical field such as nursing or physical therapy.
She also wants to continue swimming, competing in open-water events.
One area where she said she won’t emulate her dad is in his desire and ability to compete in Ironman triathlons, where he swims 2.4 miles in the ocean, bikes 112 miles and runs a marathon (26.2 miles).
“He’s a big-time athlete,” she said of her father.
She’s not doing too bad either when it comes to endurance. In December, she trained by swimming roughly eight miles in the morning and six in the evening, a grueling regimen.
“Erin is extremely committed to swimming,” Bonewit-Cron said. “She doesn’t ever get sidetracked.”
Freshman Elisabeth Abanda was named the Sunshine State Conference Women’s Tennis Player of the Week. The Montreal native has quickly become the No.1 singles player for the Bucs, ranked fifth in the nation in Division II.