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Pure Bliss: Union Junior Bucking Convention in Pool and on the Baseball Diamond

RIMERSBURG, Pa. (EYT/D9) — Convention says Evie Bliss shouldn’t be a high school swimmer.

Convention says Evie Bliss shouldn’t still be playing baseball.

Convention says Evie Bliss should just compete for a club swim team, or play softball for her school, or just follow a typical path.

But Evie Bliss doesn’t subscribe to convention. Evie Bliss isn’t afraid to zig when everyone else around her zags.

“I’ve always thought my greatest limitations are the ones I set on myself,” Bliss said. “If I believe I can do it, then I will achieve it.”

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Redbank Valley, Keystone, and Union/A-C Valley sports coverage on Explore and is brought to you by Heeter Lumber.

What Bliss wanted to achieve was swim during the high school season. She wanted test her mettle in District 9 and, hopefully, at the PIAA Swimming Championships. Problem is Union doesn’t have a swimming team.

That would deter most people.

Bliss isn’t most people.

So she and her mother, Amanda — who doubles as her swimming coach — contacted area high school teams to see if Bliss could tag along with them from time to time at a meet here and there.

Several schools were happy to have her, like Brookville and Marion Center. In fact, Bliss has competed in seven meets already this winter, including one Saturday at Clearfield.

“They’ve all been really nice and welcoming of me,” Bliss said. “It’s not easy. I mean, it has its ups and downs. Since I never swam in high school before, I was entering this completely different world of swimming. The enthusiasm of all the teams at the dual meets when they’re close is just something that’s really cool that I haven’t seen before.”

Bliss has been busy. She practices after school with her Richard G. Snyder YMCA Stingrays club team in Kittanning and then competes in a meet at whatever school will have her.

That’s mostly been at Brookville, where she has already left her mark.

Thursday, Bliss broke a Brookville pool record in the 200-yard freestyle with time of 1 minute, 59.87 seconds. That pool record had stood for more than two decades.

In her first meet at Brookville, she narrowly missed setting the pool record by .1 second. That’s when she knew it was within her reach.

“I knew I had to come back and get it,” Bliss said. “I couldn’t leave it at .1.”

That’s not the only pool record she owns. She broke one at Marion Center in the 100 freestyle, too, with a time of 54.59 seconds.

“That’s my best time of the season,” she said.

Bliss said she is far ahead of where she thought she’d be at this point of the high school campaign.

“I’m excited,” she said. “I think I’m at a good point right now in my races to where I’ll see some times drop at districts.”

Bliss’ strength in the pool is her explosion off of the starting platform and turns off the wall. Her endurance isn’t too shabby, either, which makes her a natural for long- and mid-yardage races.

During the club season, she competes in the one mile race, as well as the 1,000-yard freestyle.

“I’m not a sprinter by any means, but I can hold my own,” Bliss said. “I do think the 200 and 500 are my best events. The 500 does seem kinda short when you swim the mile a couple of times.”

One of the main reasons why Bliss wanted to compete during the high school season was to get seen by college coaches and to register times that are circulated throughout the region.

Bliss has long had a goal to compete at the next level and she’s already looking into several schools.

She is certainly getting noticed this winter — but maybe not at first.

Bliss wears a generic cap and suit — for now. She has ordered a Union cap to display her true school colors at upcoming meets.

“I sort of go a little bit undetected until I dive in because no one really knows who I am, and I don’t have anything on me besides my warmup clothes that says, ‘Union,’” Bliss said.

“But, yeah,” she added, chuckling. “I do surprise them at the end. They’re like, ‘Oh, wow!’”

Bliss began swimming competitively when she was 6 and she he was instantly hooked. It didn’t take long for her to realize she was pretty good at it, too.

Her goals for her first high school season are simple: win District 9 championships in two events and have a good showing at the PIAA Swimming Championships in March.

Bliss won’t be intimidated by the enormity of the state meet.

Two years ago she was the district champion in the 500 freestyle during her club season and this year, she was the district and regional champion in 200 freestyle.

“I’ve had some big meets under my belt,” she said.

Bliss is very active outside of swimming season, as well.

She was a member of Union’s golf team this fall and also competes in the javelin, 100- and 300-meter hurdles for the track and field team at the school.

Bliss is also a member of the Golden Knights’ baseball team in the spring.

She hit .250 in limited action as an outfielder and third baseman and also saw some time on the mound as a pitcher for Union last season.

Bliss has always played baseball and never thought about switching to softball. For her travel team, she made the Freeport International Baseball Invitational All-Star Team this summer.

“I never really played softball,” she said. “When I was in Little League, I didn’t have a softball team to join, so if I wanted to keep playing, I had to play baseball. All the guys on the Union team and I grew up playing ball together, so I don’t really face much resistance there. I’m just another ballplayer.”

Bliss said the reception from other teams has been positive for the most part.

“It just depends on the team we play and the atmosphere the coach induces,” Bliss said. “Sometimes I impress them and they’re welcoming. Sometimes they don’t like that I’m showing their boys up.”

Bliss wants to play baseball again for Union this spring, but the program doesn’t currently have a coach.

The Union track and field teams will join a co-op this year with A-C Valley.

Despite the adversity Bliss has faced swimming without a high school team to call her own, she wouldn’t want it any other way.

“I’m proud of the person I have become because of these experiences,” she said.

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Redbank Valley, Keystone, and Union/A-C Valley sports coverage on Explore and is brought to you by Heeter Lumber.