In the community

Nyssa swimmer hits his pace in pool and in the air

Bulldog Nathan Esplin takes wing to get to swim meets. (The Enterprise/John L. Braese)

NYSSA – The Nyssa High School wrestling team’s trip home after the recent state tournament in Portland took about eight hours.

The trip home for Nyssa’s swim team took two hours.

The difference? The swim team has its own pilot.

Actually, the entire team is the pilot.

Nyssa junior Nathan Esplin brought home two gold medals and scored a fifth place in team standings though he is alone on the team. Esplin finished first in the 200-yard freestyle race and in the 100-yard butterfly.

Earlier this season, Esplin and his father and stepmother won approval from the Nyssa School Board to sanction swimming as a school sport – and to have a one-person team.

“I swim competitively all the time and just wanted to do it for the high school also,” said Esplin. “From everything we could find, Nyssa has never had a swim team.”

Esplin entered Nyssa as a freshman after moving to Ontario from Mississippi. Swimming from the age of eight, he got serious about the sport in seventh grade.

“The first year of swimming was rough and I really didn’t like it that much,” he said. “When I was younger, I was like everyone else and played football, soccer and baseball.”

Esplin spent summers in the area and knew of the reputation of swim clubs in the Treasure Valley. He moved to the area two years ago to be with his father, Clyde, and to be part of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“I came here to be closer to my dad and to be able to attend church,” he said.

An added bonus for Esplin was his father is a flight instructor for private planes. Esplin has been around planes more than a pool.

“I remember going with my dad to the airport when I was three or four,” he said. “I would sit in the seat and grab the joystick and act like I was flying.”

Those acts of childhood evolved into flights with his father and ultimately taking the joystick for real.

Esplin, 16, has enough hours logged that he is waiting for the chance to fly solo. Currently, he and his father share flying time to the swim meets.

“We load everything up in a plane and go,” he said. “We share flying time depending on who wants to sleep. Flying to meets, I don’t miss as much school.”

While flying to competitive meets, Esplin spends quite a bit of time on the road.

On school days, Esplin said he drives to Caldwell after school to practice with his swim club. On off school days, he heads to Boise with the club for early morning swims.

“My dad goes with me to most of the practices, but if he is busy working, I just make the drive myself,” Esplin said. “I am tired a lot, but enjoy swimming and competing and getting better. You have to put in the practice to do that.”

Esplin and his father are well known faces at the Ontario Municipal Airport, where the family frequently rents a plane.

“We don’t fly if the weather is bad and I never had a really bad experience flying,” said Esplin.

Even with the drives, the practices, flying to meets and the competition, Esplin’s grades haven’t suffered. He is expecting to receive scholarships next year.

“Right now, I am looking at University of Utah and Brigham Young University and plan on dentistry,” he said. “ I also plan on walking on to either school’s swim team.”

Malcom McRae, high school principal, noted Esplin’s accomplishments in both the pool and classroom.

 “Nathan’s talent and work ethic would be the envy of any school program,” said McRae. “As if winning two state championships weren’t enough, his unwavering commitment to compete as a Nyssa Bulldog when we didn’t even have a swim program speaks volumes without hyperbole.” 

Others are interested in joining Esplin in the pool.

“People have approached me about joining the team next year so we can compete on the relays,” Esplin said. “I just did it because I like to swim and even with only me, I was able to compete.”

His stepmother, Aimee Esplin, served as coach for the state meets. Due to his schedule, Esplin only attended two district meets before the district qualifiers and the state meet. He flew to all.

He competed in track and cross country his freshman and sophomore years and is trying to work out a schedule to take part in tennis this year. He also is a member of Key Club and Future Business Leaders of America.

Esplin did have his own group of Bulldog supporters at the state swim meet. District Superintendent Jana Iverson and a contingent of fans made the 40-minute trip from the state wrestling tournament to the state swimming finals to cheer on Nyssa’s team.

“It was nice to have someone there from Nyssa cheering,” he said of his fan base. “We have it all the time during the club’s meets, but this is the first time ever other than my parents being there someone was cheering.”

He made it home before those fans, courtesy of his own skills with the airplane stick.

John L. Braese: [email protected], 541-473-3377.