Emma Hefty, second from right, reacts after a gust of wind blew the Letter of Intent off the table right after she finished signing it Tuesday afternoon in front of Edward Little High School. The three-sport athlete will be swimming for Division-I Merrimack College. With Hefty at the table are, from left, her brother, Brooks, mother Rebecca and father, Michael. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

AUBURN — Emma Hefty’s high school swimming future is still bouncing nervously on a starting board of doubt, but the Edward Little senior’s long-term future is taking shape and looking promising.

Hefty signed a National Letter of Intent on Wednesday to attend Merrimack College in the fall and join the school’s Division I swim team. Wednesday was the first day athletes throughout the nation were allowed sign Letters of Intent.

“I’ve been waiting for this day for a long time,” Hefty said.

One of the Red Eddies’ top swimmers since her freshman year, Hefty’s mid-August visit to the North Andover, Massachusetts, campus and a remote meeting with Merrimack head coach Erin Cammann made the school, where she plans to study health sciences, stand out among several Division I and II suitors.

Edward Little senior Emma Hefty, second from right, with her family after signing a National Letter of Intent to swim at Merrimack College. With Emma are, from left, Brooks Hefty, Rebecca Hefty, who is the Red Eddies track and field coach, and Michael Hefty. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

“It just stuck out to me because when I visited I loved it a lot, and then meeting the swim coach on Zoom was amazing and I just knew that was where I wanted to be,” Hefty said.

Merrimack elevated all of its athletic programs to NCAA Division I last fall. The Warriors finished ninth in their first season in the Northeast Conference last year. The conference postponed all of this year’s fall sports to spring due to COVID-19 and hasn’t made an announcement on winter sports.

In Merrimack’s penultimate season in Division II, Cammann, now in her sixth year as coach, led the Warriors to a program-best sixth-place finish in the 2018 Northeast-10 Conference championships.

“They are very competitive,” Hefty said. “(Cammann) told me that I would definitely fit right in and she can see an improvement coming when I come in there. I wanted them to know I still have a lot more in me to swim.”

Emma Hefty, left, and teammates Addi Dostie, Samantha Poirier and Izzy Bellefleur chat before an Edward Little swim practice at the Lewiston YWCA pool in February 2019. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

Edward Little swimming coach Scott Morrison thinks a program going through the growing pains of moving up to Division I is a good fit for Hefty reaching a lot of untapped potential.

“One of the things about Emma is although she does love swimming, she has done other sports,” Morrison said. “So she hasn’t spent four or five hours a day training just for swimming. At Merrimack, with the coaching staff and the swimmers they have there, those are things that are going to happen for her. She will have so much of an opportunity to get better.”

Hefty, who is a member of the outdoor track team coached by her mother, Rebecca, and also plays soccer, has steadily improved in the pool since joining the Eddies as a freshman. She finished in the Class A top 16 in the 200 freestyle and 500 freestyle as a freshman, the top 10 in those same events as a sophomore and swam into the top seven as a junior (seventh in 200, sixth in 500). She also anchored the 200 medley relay to a fifth-place finish and the 400 freestyle relay team to seventh place.

“She is not a one-trick pony,” Morrison said. “She has qualified in each of the eight individual swim events and would likely qualify in diving if I would let her on the board.”

“She set goals each year and she’s obtained all of those goals thus far,” Morrison added.

Hefty’s goals for this year start with having a high school season, which remains in doubt with the delay of the winter sports season by the Maine Principals’ Association.

Edward Little’s Emma Hefty, right, battles Oxford Hills’ Ella Kellogg for control of the ball during a girls soccer game last month in Auburn. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

“I would love to have swimming for my senior year, but I don’t really think it’s going to happen, which is very sad for me because it’s definitely my favorite sport,” Hefty said.

If there is no high school season, she hopes the option to swim for her club team at the Kennebec Valley YMCA remains open. After making the most of her open-water opportunities over the summer, she’s been traveling to the pool in Augusta for her laps when she hasn’t been playing soccer.

Morrison said the main focus for Hefty next year will be to have her cardio ready for NCAA swimming.

“I’ll do whatever I can to help her be prepared for next fall,” Morrison said.


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