by Robert Marlin
When asked why he works so hard in his schoolwork and in preparing for swimming competitions, Sam Eckert gives a simple answer, “I was raised to push for the best. Why do it if not trying to be the best?”
Sam’s schedule is full, juggling schoolwork and homelife, and until recently, working out in the pool after school every evening until seven. “When I get home after seven, I do my homework, usually until about ten,” he says. Although the season is over for the swim team at Tyler Legacy, Sam is still competing in meets on the Club swim circuit.
“Our team at Legacy finished 12th in the state standings this season, which is one of the best overall scores the school ever had,” Sam says. Personally, Sam finished 7th overall in the 50 Freestyle, 9th in 100 Freestyle, and the two relay teams both finished 7th overall. Reflecting on the season, Sam says simply, “It was pretty cool.”
Sam is a senior at Tyler Legacy High School. His unweighted GPA is 3.9 and he is a National Merit Commended Scholar, AP Scholar with Distinction, and TISCA Academic All-State and has memberships in the National Honor Society, Mu Alpha Theta National Math Honor Society, Science National Honor Society, Rho Kappa National Social Studies Honor Society, and the Chinese Club.
He is a four-year Varsity Letterman and Captain of the Tyler Legacy Swim Team. He began his swimming career during the summer after the third grade, when he was nine. He has been swimming ever since. He currently holds records at Tyler Legacy in 50 Freestyle, 100 Freestyle, 200 Medley Relay, 200 Freestyle Relay, and 400 Freestyle Relay. In addition to those records, he is an eight-time District Champion. He earned distinction this past year as District 9-6A MVP and made the 1st Team All-Region and 2nd Team All-State. Sam is a three-time NISCA All American, qualifying in 2021- 400 Freestyle Relay, 2022- 50 Freestyle, and 2022- 100 Freestyle. He is also a Junior Nationals Qualifier.
Along with his achievements in the pool, Sam has been certified as a Red Cross Lifeguard, and in CPR and First Aid. As if he had any spare time left, Sam volunteers monthly at Dayspring United Methodist Church as a tech, helping out with lighting and the Audio/Visual system during services. “l got involved at the church when I was in the sixth grade. I was bored just sitting in my seat. When they let me help out, I found out it was a fun way to give back and I’ve been doing it ever since.”
Sam’s parents are Elicia and Dr. Scott Eckert. Sam was born in Houston, where his father was completing medical school. The family moved to New Orleans, where his dad did his residency. It was while living in New Orleans that both of his sisters, Sara and Ella, were born. “My dad is a radiologist with a private group that serves three major hospitals in Tyler. My mother is a full-time PTA Mom. She volunteers for all the activities at our schools. Although none of us go to school there anymore, she still helps out with lunch at Jack Elementary,” Sam reports.
The family moved to Tyler in 2010, after Sam’s kindergarten year. He started first grade at Jack Elementary and has gone to public schools at Tyler ISD his entire life. “To me Tyler is a fun town. It is just the perfect size, not small but not big either.”
The pandemic hit during spring break of Sam’s sophomore year. “Legacy was out for the rest of the year. We had school online, which wasn’t too bad, but I got a little behind in precalculus. We were out of the pool for a month and a half. By summer, our coach managed to get us lane time at East Texas Aquatics,” says Sam. “When we couldn’t work out in the pool, we rode bikes for twenty miles. The coach was driven to keep us in shape with out-of-water exercises. We even did zoom calls to exercise. We were resilient when it came to staying in shape throughout the pandemic.”
Sam was grateful that Texas came back to a more normal school experience than most of the rest of the country. “By the fall, we were back in school for our junior year. We were luckier than a lot of the other school systems. Tyler was one of the first school districts to resume regular classes. We had to wear masks, but at least we were able to be in school instead of at home.”
Sam will graduate from high school this coming June. As for his post-graduation plans, he is uncertain. “I’m waiting to hear back from colleges,” he says. His first choice is Columbia in New York. “Their academic reputation is amazing. I love the city and Columbia has a beautiful campus. I visited already and really enjoyed it. And they have a swim team!”
Sam intends to major in computer science, concentrating on machine learning, a variation of artificial intelligence. He believes it is a burgeoning field, one in which he will easily be able to find employment. “Initially, I want to get my bachelor’s degree and then go to work. I’ll think about a master’s, but in computer science, it isn’t really necessary for most computer science jobs.”
He does have swimming goals while in college. “I’d like to make the Olympic Trials. I’d like to try to win in whatever conference I’m in. But definitely going to the Olympic trials would be cool. Win or lose, it would be a great experience to have. I think it would be a lot of fun!”
Regardless, what drives Sam, and the thing that gives him his greatest satisfaction, is making his parents proud. “When we competed at state, my dad told me, ‘No matter what happens here today, I will always be proud of you.’ No matter what I’m doing, making my parents proud is what is most important to me.”