Varsity swimmer’s promising season threatened by lung collapse

Senior Jakob Eckard takes a break in between relays at the Early Building pool on Dec. 9

Culley Emborg

Senior Jakob Eckard takes a break in between relays at the Early Building pool on Dec. 9

Since the seventh grade, senior Jakob Eckard has enjoyed the physical and mental challenges that swimming provides. Over time, Eckard has earned the title of team captain and has worked his way up the ranks to become one of the fastest swimmers on the Sheridan team.

Eckard’s main events are the 100 meter butterfly, the 50 meter freestyle, the 100 meter backstroke, and the 100 meter breaststroke. Eckard already has one Sheridan High School record under his belt along with Zach Ahlstrom, Presley Felker, and Oscar Patten with the time of 1.45.76 in the 200 meter free relay. This season, Eckard has his eye on another record. In 1985, Sheridan High School swimmer John Green set the record for the 100 meter butterfly stroke with a time of 1:00.27. Eckard hopes to break the enduring record before the end of his season, and he also plans to make the top two in the state, if not become a state champion.

On Sept. 29, Eckard experienced a spontaneous partial lung collapse which threatened his promising season. The injury sent him to the hospital for three days and was caused by a thin spot in his right lung. “Shortly after brushing my teeth and getting ready for school, I took a deep breath and felt a sharp pain in my chest,” said Eckard in regards to the first time he felt his lung collapse. “It was completely different from any muscle pain I’ve experienced so I wasn’t sure what to identify it as.” When doctors informed him that he wouldn’t be able to work out for a month, he became skeptical about his upcoming season.

For three days, Eckard lay on his side in a hospital bed while a chest tube inserted in his right lung slowly sucked out the harmful fluids inside in order to inflate the lung. His lungs had the potential to re-inflate themselves or totally collapse. If his lungs had collapsed they could have pressed on his heart and led to organ system failure which not only could have ended his upcoming season, but his life as well.

Eckard wasn’t supposed to engage in any physical activity for a month after returning home from the hospital but after a week and a half of recovery, he started working out after school in the weight room. He proceeded to build up his lung strength and endurance by working out on the elliptical and bike machines and after about two weeks of that, he decided to hit the pool again with hour long practices every day for a week before going back to full practices.

Because Eckard’s lung has already partially collapsed once, he is at a high risk of the injury relapsing. Unfortunately, there isn’t much he can do to avoid the injury from happening again. “The doctors told me not to worry about the lung collapsing again,” said Eckard. “They told me that I need to continue to push myself and hope that it doesn’t happen again because there really is no way to prevent it.”

Jakob’s family supported him throughout his injury and ensured that he would heal and grow from the experience. One of the people who has helped him through his lung collapse the most is one of his biggest role models: his father. “My dad has shown me that only giving 90% of my effort isn’t good enough. The only way I can achieve my goals is to work as hard as I possibly can,” said Eckard.

Swimming is definitely not for everyone and with eight practices a week, the sport can really equate to a full-time job for many athletes. The sport’s demands require the kind of focused mindset that Eckard possesses. “Jakob brings some great leadership and he’s a good model of hard work for his team mates,” said head swimming coach Brent Moore. “He has some natural ability, and he’s all about getting faster, better, and stronger.”

With his injury still healing and his season currently in swing, Eckard has much to look forward to. He plans to make more memories this year and seize every opportunity he can since this will be his final season at Sheridan High School. In regards to his favorite memory over the years, Eckard said, “My favorite memory was probably when I got to walk out for the first time in the top six. The music was blaring and everyone was screaming and cheering. My entire season had been building up to that moment and my teammates were just as excited as I was because they had also been working the whole season.”

After high school Eckard hopes to attend the University of Wyoming in Laramie where he plans to become a dietician and a certified strength and conditioning specialist. Jakob is the son of Terry and Molly Eckard.