All-News4JAX boys swimming: Sacrifices pay off for Bolles star Will Heck

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – In all sports, and in life, you get out of it what you put into it.

That is especially true for a sport like swimming that demands hours upon hours of pool work to refine a stroke, to improve breathing, and find a way to shave fractions of a second off each lap.

Our all News4JAX boys swimmer of the year knows all about this. Bolles senior Will Heck has been swimming basically his whole life.

But there was a time when the thought basketball might be his main sport. When Heck was 10 or 11, he took a break from swimming and then when he got back into it in seventh grade it was his secondary sport. But once he committed to it, Heck was hard to slow down.

On an always deep Bolles team as a freshman, Heck swam the 50 free and 100 fly. By his sophomore year, while working around COVID, Heck had found his event — the 100 breaststroke. He was asked to write down his goal time for the season.

Heck chose 53.8 seconds.

“I didn’t know what that time meant,” Heck admitted. “I just wrote it down. I looked cool. Like all right, let’s go.”

And go he did. At the state finals in 2021, Heck hit the wall in 53.73 seconds, breaking the state record in the process. That changed everything.

“That one swim honestly kind of flipped my career,” Heck said. “It changed my life in a way. People started to treat me differently. And talking to me differently. It was kind of weird at first, like, I was like, you know, you like even people on my team. And I was like, ‘Why is this happening?’”

The following year, a whirlwind recruiting schedule led to what Heck called an underwhelming junior year.

Which brings us to his senior year.

Heck decided before it started that he was going all in.

“Let’s get it together. You know, I’ve got one more year left with these guys. I have to give them everything I got,” he said.

He and head coach Peter Verhoef broke down Heck’s stroke, methodically looking for ways to improve the mechanics and the approach of his work in the water. His goal time was 52.8. At the state meet, he touched the wall in the prelims at 52.38, setting a new state record.

“It was crazy,” Heck said. “I was over the moon. It all paid off. It’s a great feeling. And then just getting to celebrate with the team for a little bit. It was awesome.”

During the finals, his time of 53.60 was fast enough to outdistance teammate Wyatt Porch by more than four-tenths of a second to take the state title. All of the hard work paid off in a major way. There were a lot of sacrifices along the way, something Heck said is unavoidable to achieve those goals.

“Making sacrifices mentally is 100% the hardest part,” Heck said. “Watching what you eat, making sure your diet is clean. Two weeks out of the meet, not doing anything on the weekend. You can’t be doing those things. You have to get your sleep cycle together. Being in high school and trying to be social and also have these different goals, a lot of people don’t understand it. And that’s what’s the hardest part.”

Heck is now a part of the long and impressive swimming tradition at Bolles. He said that being surrounded by high-performance swimmers in the present and the past creates a strong motivation to make the sacrifice and to go the extra mile.

‘We all have our own personal goals, our personal fire that we want to do this for our own reason,” Heck said. “But sometimes those can only take us so far. We walk past the record board and it’s filled with these legendary names. We just know of everybody who swam for us and what it means to be a Bolles swimmer. That is what I feel like … not feel like, I know that’s what separates us from a lot of teams.”

All-News4JAX boys swimming

First team

Swimmer, School, Class

Mehdi Elaoufir, Stanton, Sr.

State champ in the 200 IM (1:49.08) and 100 free (45.15), both times earning All-American consideration. Committed to Florida State University.

William Heck, Bolles, Sr.

Swimmer of the year. Three-time All-News4JAX selection. Set state record in the 100 breast (52.38) in the prelims and went on to win state in the event. Swam second leg on the 200 medley relay team. Took third in the 200 IM (1:47.18). Has signed with NC State University.

Andrew Kravchenko, Bolles, So.

State champ in the 50 free, with his best time (20.4) coming during the prelims. State runner-up in the 100 free (44.68).

Landon Kyser, Bolles, Jr.

State champ in the 100 back with automatic All-American time of 49.02. Fourth in the 200 free with an All-American consideration time in the prelims of 1:39.02.

Carter Lancaster, Bolles, Jr.

Set state record in the 200 IM with a 1:45.02. Swam lead leg of state champ 200 medley relay team. Swam second leg of the state champ 400 free relay team. All of his times automatically qualified as All-American times. Has committed to University of California-Berkeley.

Kayden Lancaster, Bolles, Sr.

State champ in the 500 free (4:25.74). Anchor leg of the state champ 400 free relay team. State runner-up in the 200 free (1:36.43). All of his times were automatic All-American numbers. Has signed with University of Louisville.

Aidan Paro, Bolles, Sr.

Took third in the 100 fly (47.52) and state runner-up behind record-setting performance of Carter Lancaster in the 200 IM (1:46.54). Swam third leg of state champ 200 medley relay team. All of his times were automatic All-American numbers. Has signed with University of Louisville.

Wyatt Porch, Bolles, So.

State runner-up to new recordholder William Heck in the 100 breast, with his best time (53.97) coming in the prelims to earn automatic All-American honors. Fourth in the 200 IM (1:47.77).

Raymond Prosinski, Bartram Trail, Sr.

State runner-up in automatic All-American time of (1:36.29) in the 200 free. Anchor leg of state runner-up 200 free relay team and fourth-place 400 free relay team. Took sixth in 100 back.

Barrie Snyder, Bishop Kenny, Sr.

State champ in the 50 free (20.83). Swam anchor leg of two state champ relay teams the 200 medley and the 200 free. Eighth in the 100 free.

Seth Tolentino, Bolles, Jr.

State runner-up in the 50 free in 20.48. Third in the 100 free in 44.86. Lead leg of the state champ 400 free relay team. All of his events earned automatic All-American honors. Texas A&M commit.

Second team

Correction: Barrie Snyder was listed inadvertently twice on the team. The correct swimmer on the second team should have been his teammate at Bishop Kenny Evan Larson.

Swimmer, School, Class

Victor Derani, Bolles, Sr.

TJ Frost, Bishop Snyder, So.

Brandon Gear, Nease, So.

Zachary Jones, Bishop Kenny, Sr.

Matthew Koziol, Nease, Sr.

Evan Larson, Bishop Kenny, Sr.

Rich Nguyen, Nease, Sr.

Brody Singley, West Nassau, So.

Maxwell Shaver, Fletcher, So.

Cameron Watson, Paxon, Jr.

Anthony Whittall, Bolles, Jr.

Carter Wright, Bishop Kenny, So.

About the Authors:

Justin Barney joined News4Jax in February 2019, but he’s been covering sports on the First Coast for more than 20 years.

Cole joined News4Jax full-time in January 2017, but he has been a part of the team since he began filling in as a sports anchor in 2005.