Yokota High School’s brightest swim star will become a Rainbow Warrior next fall — senior Elliko Heimbach has signed a national letter of intent to swim at the University of Hawaii.
She is believed to be the first student in Yokota’s 32-year history to sign a national letter of intent to swim at a Division I university.
“I’m excited. I’m so excited, going off to college, finally,” Heimbach said. “I’m going to enjoy it.”
Heimbach, a dual citizen of Japanese and American parentage, has lived in Japan most of her life and has swam against Japanese and American competitors since she was 10. She qualified for the Japanese Olympic trials last April, and is a U.S. national record-holder in the 400-meter freestyle relay.
Committing to Hawaii “tops them all,” Heimbach said. “This is a really big step, a new page in my life. And I’m really excited about it.”
Of several colleges she considered, Heimbach says she chose Hawaii for its tropical climate, its location between relatives in Japan and her home state of Pennsylvania, its swim program and its hotel management program, her chosen major.
“I thought long and hard about this decision,” she said. Hawaii has “exactly what I want to study, their swimming is really good, they have a good, strong program and I want to be a part of it.”
Heimbach’s father, Rick, is an educational technologist at Yokota East Elementary School. For most of her life, Heimbach trained at Kaneda Swim Club in Koganei, east of Yokota.
Heimbach qualified for the Japan Olympic trials by swimming the 100-meter butterfly in 1 minute, 1.75 seconds at the Suburban Tokyo Club championships on Oct. 26, 2003.
But in the Olympic trials at Tatsumi, she finished 50th out of 55 competitors in the 100 butterfly, clocking a 1:04.11.
Whether she’ll try again in 2008 for the Bejing Games is “a long-term goal,” she said.
“I’m not really thinking about that right now. The first thing is to get there [Hawaii], see what it’s like, get used to it, have fun, get to know the girls and coach and get used to living in Hawaii.”