After Greenwood native Parker Egbert made times for Team USA, officials from USA Paralympics told his mother, Laura Egbert, to get her passports ready.
Parker, who will compete and train with Team USA next week in Colorado Springs, Colorado, could soon be traveling to different parts of the world as a Team USA swimmer. He signed with Team USA as an up-and-coming athlete after making the required times at a meet in Cincinnati where he won all eight events he swam in.
A freshman at Emerald High School, Parker is one of the fastest swimmers in Greenwood, and he is one of the youngest swimmers in Team USA’s 15-18 age group. Next week, in Colorado Springs, Parker will compete in six events in an international meet.
Parker has autism and intellectual disabilities, and Laura wasn’t sure what his path in life might be through his development as a child. But in the pool, Parker has shown that he can move past limitations and succeed.
“When he’s in the pool, he’s just Parker, and he kills it in the pool every day and he works hard,” Laura said.
Parker, 15, is in only his fourth year of competitive swimming. He started swimming in Greenville in Special Olympics and at the Greenwood YMCA, but Laura and her husband, Aaron, quickly saw his potential and decided to put him on a competitive team, Team Greenville.
For the past year, Laura has driven an hour and a half to Greenville for a three-hour swim practice six days a week. They’ll ramp up his practice time to four hours a day, six days per week, this summer.
With Team Greenville, Parker receives hands-on coaching and reviews video to improve his strokes. Laura loves to hear coaches treat him like any of their other swimmers.
When Parker swims, Laura said, he focuses on himself. Rather than look toward competitors’ times or compare himself with teammates, Parker’s singular focus is on performing his strokes well.
“He’s more proud if we’re proud,” Laura said. “I don’t feel like he fully comprehends what he’s accomplished. I don’t think what he’s accomplished is comparable to anybody, just because of what we battle every day, for him to make it through the day. ... I show him somebody that’s faster than him and I say, ‘That’s the person you need to beat.’ And he gets in the pool and he beats them.”
Parker will compete in the 50-meter freestyle, 100-meter backstroke, 100-meter freestyle, 100-meter fly, 100-meter breaststroke and the 200-meter IM in Colorado Springs. His favorite stroke is the backstroke.
Hollis Kimbrell taught Parker at Brewer Middle School, and has followed him to Emerald after he finished middle school. Kimbrell knows Parker as well or better than anyone else, and she said his persistence with swimming shows in the classroom, too.
“If he wants something, he’s going to do it,” Kimbrell said. “If he wants to get an answer right, he’s going to get that answer right, whether it takes him ten minutes or ten hours.”
Parker doesn’t always have a full grasp of the context of his achievements, Laura said, but she and Kimbrell can feel his enthusiasm. Kimbrell has a calendar in her classroom, and Parker circles the date of each upcoming swim meet.
“He knows when the meets are,” Kimbrell said. “He writes on there, ‘Swim Meet,’ and always will tell me, ‘There’s a swim meet, there’s a swim meet.’”
By next summer, it’s possible that Parker could be competing in the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo. There’s a long road ahead, though. If Parker performs well in Colorado Springs, he will head to either Peru or Malaysia for another competition. From there, several more meets remain as he aims for a spot in Tokyo.
“We just keep pushing him and the more we push him, the more we expect from him, rather than just keeping him in a little box, we push and he can do it,” Laura said.