Most athletes form a family-type bond with their teammates. For the East Carolina University swim team, that bond has gotten stronger as two brothers begin what’s the last season for one and the first for the other.
Senior swimmer Tyler Zieg will be joined by his younger brother, freshman swimmer Parker. Both their family relationship and the opportunity to compete alongside each other means a lot, not only to them, but to the team as well.
“Family is something that is big for us, not just bloodline wise,” head coach Matthew Jabs said. “It is always good to see a younger brother look up to his older brother and want to follow in his footsteps.”
Both Tyler and Parker had to transition from their individual respective sports to get to where they are today. Tyler played soccer while Parker played lacrosse before both started swimming at Grimsley High School, in Greensboro, North Carolina.
“After freshman year, my parents sat me down,” Tyler said. “They told me that they believed I could play a sport in college, but I needed to pick one and stick with it so I chose swimming (over soccer).”
When they committed to swimming, both Tyler and Parker had to work twice as hard starting to swim competitively when they were sophomores in high school, lacking the multiple years of training like other athletes.
“Adjusting to the collegiate level of swimming is a big change for someone who has only been swimming for two to three years before now,” Tyler said. “Having the chance to compete with your friends and get better together is a cool thing.”
Both went on to be North Carolina High School Athletic Association Finalist swimmers in their individual events. Parker was a two-time finalist in 2017 at Grimsley High School, where he finished third in the 50-yard freestyle race and seventh in the 100-yard freestyle race. Parker was a junior National Qualifier and two-time All-American swimmer while recording four top-eight finishes in the 50-yard and 100-yard freestyle races in 2017.
“My brother winning conference three years in a row definitely helped influence my decision to swim for ECU,” Parker said. “It makes me feel like a bigger part of the team now that I get to swim alongside my brother.”
Tyler was a Junior National Qualifier, a Junior National Participant in the National Club Swimming Association and was ranked No. 23 as one of the best prospects out of North Carolina in 2014 by collegeswimming.com.
As a freshman at ECU, Tyler competed in six dual meets where he recorded two second-place finishes on the year. He captured the silver medal in the 100 and 200-yard butterfly races against the University of Maryland at Baltimore County (UMBC). As a sophomore, he only competed in two dual meets due to inflamed tissue in his back.
After recovering from his injury, Tyler came back as a junior stronger than ever. He scored 26 points at the conference championship meet, competed in the league championship finals of the 100-yard butterfly placing eighth and competed in 10 regular season meets where he added six top-three finishes and accumulated 39 dual meet points.
“It really excited me to find out that Parker wanted to be a part of the ECU program,” Tyler said. “I have known Parker to be an exceptional hard-worker both in and out of the pool. He has always been talented. We both had to transition from different sports to swimming.”
Coming off of a third straight AAC Championship, Tyler has the opportunity to graduate from ECU with four straight titles, with the last one possibly being more special than the others, given that he will have his brother alongside him.
“They are brothers that are definitely different as swimmers,” Jabs said. “We are lucky to have them and look forward to seeing what they accomplish this year.”
How well Parker adjusts to collegiate swimming, along with the type of impact Tyler has this year, could play a role in determining if the men can win a fourth straight conference championship.
Both swimmers will see action for the first time together on Sept. 29 at 3:30 p.m. inside Minges Coliseum in the Purple Gold Intrasquad meet.
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