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Next spring Garrett Swaim will be part of the first lacrosse team at Jacksonville University. The Leland resident hopes he and his teammates can start a proud legacy.
“I thought it would be really cool to be part of the first-ever recruiting class for them,” he said.
Swaim is the son of Brenda and Lindian Joseph Swaim (a physician at Brunswick Community Hospital). Garrett is believed to be the first Brunswick County youth to sign a Division I scholarship to play lacrosse.
“I got recruited by a lot of schools,” he said, “but I really liked Jacksonville. The facilities are great. The school is really supporting the lacrosse program. They’re putting in turf fields this summer. They’re building the men’s and women’s lacrosse teams a field house, complete with film room, lockers, relaxing areas. The weight room is great. The school is really behind it. ”
The Dolphins were not a blind pick by Swaim. The coach is Matt Kerwick, who ranks in the top 25 among active lacrosse coaches in career victories and career winning percentage (98-84). As a player, he led the Hobart Statesmen to the Division III national championship four straight years. (He was the tourney MVP in 1989.) He also played in the Major Indoor Lacrosse League for six seasons.
Swaim, who is 6-foot-3, 200 pounds, played for Kerwick during a recruiting showcase.
“I really liked him a lot,” he said. “When he began recruiting me, it was a big plus knowing that I was going to like my coach.”
Swaim also likes the classes Jacksonville offers. Business and finance are his interests.
“Jacksonville has a great business school,” Swaim said, “and that’s one thing that was appealing to me. I can play Division I but I can also get a great education while I do it.
“The classrooms are awesome. The dorms seem really nice. I really fell in love with the place when I went down for my official visit.
“They’re taking all the proper steps in the right direction and I’m really excited to get down there.”
Swaim has played lacrosse for a number of teams in his young career, starting in Raleigh. He began as a midfielder in recreation leagues. He stopped playing for a while, but his interest was rekindled in high school. He played for a year at Episcopal High School in Alexandria, Va., and for a year at New Hanover in Wilmington.
Swaim is a talented lacrosse player. He was all-conference as a sophomore at New Hanover. He played on the All-East team in the State Games. He has played for the Wilmington Pride, a youth travel team.
When his family moved recently from the New Hanover school district to Leland, Swaim decided to continue his lacrosse career at Salisbury (Conn.) School, a prep boarding school, where he now is a senior.
Lacrosse is not offered at schools in this county, but in some areas in the East lacrosse gets more attention than college football.
“Brunswick County doesn’t have lacrosse,” Swaim said. “I began looking at New England boarding schools because New England has a reputation of extremely high competition. It was a great chance for me to improve and learn more about the game.”
He has been there for the past two school years, “and I have loved it,” he said.
His teammates probably feel the same way about the opportunity the school has given them. Some have graduated from high school and are there for a transitional year as they prepare for college.
“We have about 10 Division I commitments already,” Swaim said.
Swaim no longer is a midfielder. He is a close defensemen, similar to a sweeper in soccer.
“I defend the goal and make sure nobody gets a good shot against our keeper,” he said. “I love playing defense. It’s great.
“It was always fun to score, but as I got older I found I was a better defender.”
The Dolphins’ first official game will be in the spring 2010 (the date and foe have not been announced). Swaim hopes his career will set the standard by which future Jacksonville lacrosse defenders are measured.
“Maybe one day when they’re winning national championships,” he said, “I can say I was part of the first group.”
MICHAEL PAUL is the sports editor at the Beacon. Reach him at 754-6890 or at email@example.com.