CLINTON — As Clinton Coach Albert Hayton recalled seeing Josh Hill for the first time, he recalled seeing a 5-year-old rambunctious tadpole in the water who was wanting to become a big-time swimmer.
“Some of it came true,” Hayton said. “He got some of the records that he wanted, and he’s one of the fastest kids to ever come through Clinton High. It could be 20 years before someone breaks those again.”
Fast forward about 13 years to Thursday. Hill signed his letter of intent to Western Illinois University to advance his swimming career.
“I’m glad that I’m signed to Western Illinois and know that I can contribute,” Hill said.
Hill finished his senior season with another state swim meet appearance led by having the Kings’ second-fastest time in the 50-yard freestyle and 100-yard freestyle.
Hill’s fastest time this season in the 50 was in 21.80 seconds, while his best in the 100 was in 47.39 seconds. He also had the River Kings’ fastest time in the 200 (1:48.52) and 500 (5:12.61) freestyle races.
“The thing that I’m proud of most is his maturity level that I’ve seen over the last four years and the dedication that he has shown toward swimming,” Hayton said. “I think that will carry over to college, and he will be successful. He’s changed over the time I’ve known him since he was a little kid.”
Hill chose to be a Leatherneck because of the law enforcement program that WIU has, and he wanted the challenge to become a Division I student-athlete.
“Wanting to swim at D-I I knew was going to be a huge challenge,” Hill said. “Having that goal in there was a really good motivator. It all just came down to my school and my future.”
Hill worked at his craft year-round, including at the annual summer Stars of Tomorrow outdoor meet.
“Swimming in the summer keeps me in shape for high school season, so it helps me build endurance,” Hill said back in July. “I love this.”
The River King holds four school records, including the 200 freestyle that he got as a sophomore.
Hayton believes that Hill will use that same level of motivation to help him succeed in Macomb, Illinois.
“You can tell he’s really worked hard this last year, and you can tell the difference in his body style,” Hayton said. “He’s gotten stronger, and I think he’s more motivated as he was even as a high school swimmer. He knows he has to be stronger, but he’s done all the right things here.”
Hill hopes to race in the 100 and 200 freestyle races at Western Illinois.
“I’m assuming the practices are going to be a lot harder,” Hill said. “But, I’m ready for it.”