The 2020 Best of the River Valley Preps All-Star awards were recently announced in a digital program featuring some of the greats from the sports world and national media in a production sure to bring a smile to all involved. Though COVID 19 may have kept everyone from gathering for the annual banquet, the program, which can still be found on the website, linked through the Paris Express, was a first-rate production allowing local students to hear their name called by greats in their sports field.
Subiaco Academy, and their first year swimming team, landed a spot on the agenda, as Ethan Spillers, swimming as a junior, achieved finalist status. While swimming may be new to Subiaco Academy athletics, Spillers has been swimming since age 8 when he started taking lessons. Spillers' swim instructor noticed he had potential, and since then, he has kept the road hot between Scranton and Clarksville, where he has to go to swim.
Ethan swims competitively year-round and travels to Clarksville, often five days a week. He keeps this swimming schedule while working for the Academy during the day in the summer and also working side jobs mowing yards. A typical day would see Ethan at either work or school from 7:30 a.m. till 3 p.m. at either school or work and then traveling north for 20 minutes to practice at 4 p.m. Frequently, the workouts are more than five days a week or even twice a day. Such is the drive of a student earning his way to hopefully attend a Service Academy or a strong ROTC program and swim. Ethan maintains a 3.9 GPA, which should help his chances of achieving those goals.
Matthew Shelton of Scranton, and Matthew Dunsworth of Clarksville, two good friends and competitors of Spillers', were on the awards list making the final three. Two females also made the awards list as honorees, Scranton's Isabel Shelton and Paris Lady Eagle Lindsey Ward, both swimming for the CASC Racers, a team from the Benton area in Central Arkansas. The team competes year-round, but the school season, which is where the awards are based, basically aligns with the winter sports schedule of basketball.
For his first-year program, Spillers was a standout and workhorse. He swam the 100-meter backstroke, butterfly, and freestyle, the 200 freestyle and IM (which includes 50 meters in four disciplines), and the 500-meter freestyle. He placed second in the State in the 100-meter butterfly and 100-meter backstroke. Those medals were the highlight of his swimming career for a short time. Best of the River Valley Preps brought in Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian in history with 28 total medals. Phelps, on camera sporting a mustache that could not help his aerodynamics in the pool, gave a short inspirational message before naming Ethan Spillers by name as the River Valley Preps Swimmer of the year.
"It was pretty awesome. The highest figure and most decorated olympian just said my name," Spillers said as he described hearing Phelps call his name.
He was also quick to thank his coach Mary Jane Spillers, or as he calls her, mom. It has been a determined and focused process for eight and a half years that has now landed Spillers the award as the best across all classifications in our region.
Subiaco will return Spillers for another year and look for him to excel in the pool and in life, or maybe a chance to mow your yard as he pursues his life goals and a chance to compete at the next level.