South Jeff swimmer overcomes obstacles & inspires

Elise Hill

ADAMS, N.Y. (WWNY) - Elise Hill is a member of the South Jefferson swim team.

She's just like any other swimmer taking part in the Frontier League championships, so much so that you hardly notice the crutches she uses to get to the starters block.

“My disability is called spina bifida, there was a hole in my spine when I was born,” she said. “When they repaired it, they cut off the nerves in my ankle and below -- some of the muscles don’t work in my lower legs.”

Her condition hasn't slowed her down. If nothing else, it has spurred her on to compete not only in swimming, but also in indoor and outdoor track and field, including throwing a shot put.

"I feel like it pushed me, I feel like my body pushes me to do better instead of slowing me down," she said. "I started at a Special Olympics training club five years ago, I decided I wanted to join the swim team at my school, and I did, and this year I moved up to varsity."

The father-daughter team of Pat and Leah Connors coach the Spartans swim team. Leah also coaches Elise in track. Both love having her on the team.

"She's a great teammate, we've had a great season, the team has really bonded well and Elise is a big part of that," Pat Connors said. It's very heartwarming to see when she gets out of the pool, teammates are there to help her, when she needs to get on the block, teammates are there to help her with that -- they really look out for her and enjoy having her around."

"She really works hard 24-7, there's never a practice where's she goes 'coach, I can't do that' or 'coach can I stop and not do that,' Lean Connors said. "If we give her a workout, she does everything to the best of her ability -- she gives 110 percent all the time."

Her teammates love Elise -- what’s not to love -- and she appreciates the support that her teammates give her.

"I feel like my teammates have been very supportive and helpful," Elise said. "They always cheer me on whenever I swim, after they always help me if I need it, so I feel like it helps me a lot, to not feel any different than others."

Elise doesn't think much about it, but she inspires others who may have a disability to take part in sports.

“I hope that what I’m doing inspires little kids who have a disability to keep going and to think something’s not possible when it is,” she said.

If she has one message to relay, it’s this: “probably to push yourself because I didn’t think I could do swimming and track and field until I actually tried it -- I think if you push yourself hard enough you will be able to do it.”

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