Continuing the Tradition
Oct. 30, 2003
By Scott Rex
To an outsider, it would seem as if Liz Helwig's destiny was to swim at Lafayette College.
Helwig followed in the footsteps of her mother, Suzanne '74, uncle and cousin in attending Lafayette and became the third of Suzanne and Russell Helwig's daughters to compete in a sport at the NCAA Division I level; sister Meghan concluded her field hockey career at Villanova last year, while Becky is currently a sophomore on the field hockey squad at Connecticut.
While Liz knew she wanted to swim at the Division I level, it was never a given that she would be a Leopard.
"When I was first looking at schools I was stuck on going south. However, after a few recruiting trips I realized I wanted to be close to home," said Liz, who listed Duke, Richmond, Delaware, Boston College, Lehigh and William & Mary as the other schools competing for her services. "The biggest factor in why I chose Lafayette would have to be coach Dailey. Coach Dailey was one of the few coaches that understood the demand of academics and athletics. He cares about each one of his swimmers as a person and was willing to work with me on both the athletic and academic demands."
Eleventh-year head swimming coach Jim Dailey knew he had a gem when he landed a commitment from Helwig.
"Liz is a great swimmer. She has been at Lafayette for two months now and has gotten used to what is going on and it has shown in her grades and performances," Dailey said.
"Without putting pressure on her, Liz is the fastest woman Lafayette has ever had on the team," he continued. "She is already number one in our dual meet season top-five in seven events. Liz is partnered with an outstanding first year class. With their combined efforts recruiting has become much easier."
Surprisingly, given the family history, Helwig says she felt little pressure to attend Lafayette.
"My mom had little influence on my decision to attend Lafayette," Liz said. "She encouraged me to look at a variety of schools and meet with different coaches to find a school that fit me best. However once my decision was made to attend Lafayette it was exciting to be attending the school where she once attended."
While Suzanne and Liz will both own a degree from Lafayette College, their alma mater will be the same in name only.
"When I came in there were only approximately 125 girls. We were the first class where they admitted females," Suzanne said. "There were a few more girls each year but by the time I graduated there were still only 400 or 500 girls, so it was still a predominantly male school. It was a co-ed institution, but it felt like an all-male school that just a few females attended."
Given the collective athletic resume of the Helwig household, it goes without saying that sports have always played in important role in the lives of the family.
"I think I probably steered them toward sports because I was always involved in sports and my husband is a golf pro," Suzanne said. "All the kids learned to swim at a young age, mostly due to safety, because we spend a lot of time around the water. My philosophy has always been that teenagers have to be kept busy or they will find their own things to do, which you might not want them doing. Sports always kept them involved and they were fortunate that they were very good athletes so they were rewarded for their time and effort."
"When we were younger, my three sisters and brother would spend our days playing athletics for the town, the school or just in our backyard," Liz said. "I guess you can say our family has been blessed with good athletic genes. But I also think we love to compete. There has always been said that there is something about the Helwigs when it comes to competing. We just don't give up and we thrive on competition."
Dailey has high expectations of Helwig, and rightfully so. He knows the freshman will give him nothing less than her best, both in and out of the pool.
"She is a coach's dream because she is still coachable," Dailey said. "If you ask her to change some part of her stroke she will do it, if you ask her to swim faster or slow down she will do it without complaining.
"Liz is a lot of fun to be around. She trains hard and genuinely loves to swim and compete," he added. "She always brings something new to practice almost everyday."
Helwig has lived up to the expectations early in her Lafayette career. In the Leopards first two outings, she collected a total of five first-place finishes. If the early returns are any indication, Helwig will be one reason to keep an eye on the Lafayette swimming program over the next four years.
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