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PREP SWIMMING: Eastside swimmers sign NLIs with Piedmont College
Eastside Swimming
Eastside seniors Kyle Rutberg (left) and Austin O’Brien (right) are going to be teammates again next year. On Thursday, the duo penned National Letters of Intent to swim at Piedmont College. - Mason Wittner | The Covington News

COVINGTON, Ga.  — A pair of Eastside Eagles realized their dreams of competing at the next level on Thursday afternoon.

Senior swimmers Austin O’Brien and Kyle Rutberg signed National Letters of Intent to extend their academic and athletic careers at Piedmont College inside Eastside’s Media Center. The duo made up two-fifths of a senior class that helped lead the Eagles to seven top-three finishes as a team this winter.

“They both had fantastic seasons,” Eastside head coach DeAnna O’Brien said. “Austin was a returning co-captain, so he took on a leadership role. Both Austin and Kyle really dropped amazing amounts of time, and both of them were very close to qualifying for state in individual events.

O’Brien and Rutberg were members of the 200 freestyle and 400 freestyle relay teams that competed at the GHSA Swimming and Diving State Championships at the Georgia Tech Aquatic Center in February. They both just missed the mark that would’ve allowed them to compete in individual events, but that was more a byproduct of a pandemic-altered season than a lack of in-pool success.

“If we’d have had maybe two more meets at the end of the season,” coach O’Brien said, “I feel certain they would’ve qualified for state individually.”

In addition to their contributions in the pool, O’Brien and Rutberg established themselves as consummate leaders outside of it.

“Their leadership and willingness to set an example, I think, is how they stood out the most,” coach O’Brien said. “We spent more time on drylands exercising than we did in the pool this season because we were limited in how much time we could get in the gym. Austin and Kyle really led the team in encouraging them, reminding them, ‘Come on, this is going to pay off. Even though we’re not in the water, it’s going to pay off in the water.’”