BY AARON SNYDER
THE DAILY INDEPENDENT
Eli Barnhill has been swimming since age 4, but he didn’t truly “learn to swim,” in his eyes, until recent years.
Thanks to strong tutelage by area coaches, he said, Barnhill fine-tuned his skills and became a college-caliber athlete.
The Russell senior signed a letter of intent with Campbellsville University on Tuesday afternoon.
Ryan Ferguson and Jennifer Daniels have impacted Barnhill greatly.
Daniels, Russell’s coach, is a quality “1-on-1” teacher who “gives personal advice to get through the more difficult things,” Barnhill said.
Ferguson, Barnhill’s YMCA coach, revived Barnhill’s passion for the pool.
“The last coach I had wanted us as sprinters and I just didn’t have the technique,” Barnhill said. “(Ferguson) has had the biggest impact out of all the coaches I’ve ever had. He’s taught me more of the basics that I needed to focus on.”
At the Y, Barnhill said he fell in love with the team atmosphere. Campbellsville offers a similar environment, he said. Tigers coach Casey Smith, a Campbellsville alumnus, has some of the same qualities as Ferguson, according to Barnhill.
“She’s a super person, very encouraging,” Barnhill said. “Very easy to get along with.”
Barnhill will represent Russell in the state swimming championships at the University of Louisville next weekend (Feb. 2425). He’s a two-time region 100 backstroke winner. He was a region runner-up in the 500 freestyle.
“I just recently became a backstroker,” he said. “I never really swam it until regionals last year.”
He’ll compete in both events in Louisville.
“I am thrilled to be able to go back (to State) again this year,” Barnhill added. “I’m excited to see what my times do, see how they improve. Last year at State, I got personal bests in (both) events.”
Barnhill has also been a pivotal piece in a successful YMCA relay team that made it to the Zone Championships three of the last four years. The most recent team was comprised of Barnhill, J.J. Holmes, Ty Adkins and Jared Smith.
Barnhill realized “about three years ago” that college swimming was a possibility.
He said he will study sports medicine at Campbellsville.
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