Friday, January 05, 2001

Colerain swimmer fights lupus

By Dave Schutte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Amy Broxterman
(Craig Ruttle photo)
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        Overcoming adversity is often an insurmountable task for an athlete who has tasted success. Amy Broxterman, an 18-year-old swimmer at Colerain High School, is an exception to the rule.

        Nationally recognized four years ago at the Powell Crosley YMCA, Broxterman was good enough to qualify to the national YMCA relay team, and many coaches predicted a brilliant future.

        Today, Broxterman is just happy to be competing again after she was diagnosed two years ago with Systemic Lupus Erythematous, a connective tissue disorder that effects the heart, kidneys and joints.

        “Amy had an outstanding freshman year but went downhill as a sophomore,” Colerain coach Stephanie Janke said. “She was always tired and her times were much slower.”

        After 12 months of tests, it was determined Broxterman was suffering from Lupus, an incurable disease that has the antibodies attacking the body tissues.

        “I was always tired and my joints hurt,” Broxterman said. “I was on a variety of prescription medicines but nothing seemed to make it better. Some days were worse than others.”

        Not knowing what was wrong, personal coach Mike Leonard (Powell Crosley YMCA), helplessly watched for nearly a year as Broxterman struggled through practices and meets.

        “Amy trained through it all and never complained,” Leonard said. “We watched her closely during practices. Some days she was so fatigued the we had to help her out of the pool after workouts.”

        A distance swimmer before she was diagnosed with Lupus, the doctors advised Broxterman to swim in the shorter races such as the 100 breaststroke and 200 freestyle.

        “Amy was excellent in the 500 freestyle,” Leonard said. “She trained hard for the national long course. She swam one race but was so weak, she couldn't get out of the pool on her own.”

        Broxterman now takes it one day at a time.

        “As a freshman, I took my swimming ability for granted,” Broxterman said. “I never thought anything would happen. Now I take nothing for granted and this helps me enjoy swimming even more.”

        The attitude and example set by Broxterman has carried over to the Colerain and Powell Crosley teams.

        “Amy is an inspiration to the other swimmers,” Leonard said. “She's an awesome kid who works as hard as anyone on the team.”

        Because of a lack of pool time (one hour a day) alotted the high school team, Broxterman works out with Leonard at the YMCA.

        “We took Amy off morning practices because it was too much for her,” Leonard said. “Everyday during warm ups, Vickie Bosel (assistant coach) and I watch her. We can tell if it's going to be a good or bad day.”

        Broxterman has often dreamed of qualifying to the state meet, a fantasy that may or may not come true.

        “It depends on how she's feeling the day of the sectional and district meets,” Leonard said. “If she's having a good day, she should make it.”

        Broxterman's tenacious comeback attempt hasn't gone unnoticed.

        In October, she was given the YMCA's Team Character Award, awarded annually to a Greater Cincinnati swimmer who sets an example for others.

        “The recipient doesn't have to be a YMCA swimmer,” Leonard said. “Every high school nominates a swimmer and the competition is tough.”

        Despite the adversity, Broxterman plans to swim in college, committing to the University of Indianapolis (NCAA Division II).

        “Winning isn't everything like it use to be,” Broxterman said. “I swim with heart and try to do my best. I've learned to enjoy the sport more than ever.”

        Broxterman's attitude, courage and desire makes her a winner no matter happens during the next seven weeks leading up to the state swim meet in Canton.

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