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Former Weston High All-American Eric Nilsson still a master of his stroke

28wecatch- ***warning: image lo res, do not use for more than 2.25 columns *** Weston High grad Eric Nilsson competing in an open water swim. (handout)
COURTESY/ERIC NILSSON
Weston High graduate Eric Nilsson has won the 8-mile Boston Light Swim twice, as well as the 10-mile Kingdom Swim and the US Masters 5K at Coney Island.

Eleven years after graduating from Weston High as one of the greatest swimmers in program history, Eric Nilsson still competes in Masters and open water events.

A South Boston resident and an actuarial analyst for John Hancock Financial Services, the 28-year-old Nilsson has won the 8-mile Boston Light Swim twice, the 10-mile Kingdom Swim in Vermont and the US Masters 5K at Coney Island.

As a Weston High senior, Nilsson attained All-America status in 10 events and still holds four school records.

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“I’ve had some tremendously dedicated kids, but none more dedicated than Eric,’’ said now-retired Pete Foley, his high school coach. “He had great stroke mechanics, but it was his work ethic that separated him from the pack.’’

Eric Nilsson lived in Hawaii after graduating from Northwestern.
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A 2009 Northwestern University graduate as a statistics major, Nilsson was an All-American in the 200 and 400-yard freestyle relay and the individual 500 freestyle.

He recorded 29 top-five dual meet finishes his senior year and currently holds Northwestern marks in the 200 butterfly (1:44.05) and as part of the 400- and 800 freestyle relay teams.

Nilsson joined the New England Barracudas club team in Weston at age 12 and it didn’t take long for him to embrace competition, “which I still look forward to,’’ he said.

As a high school freshman he starred on Foley’s defending Division 2 state championship team that had graduated a strong senior class.

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“But we surprised everybody by winning states again and lost only one dual meet,’’ recalled Nilsson, who swam for two more state championship squads — as a sophomore and senior — when he was named the Globe’s Swimmer of the Year.

“Coach Foley was top-notch as a teacher of the sport and cultivating a positive atmosphere for success,’’ said Nilsson, who reluctantly passed up his junior season so he could compete for the Barracudas and qualify for USA Swimming nationals.

At Northwestern he was coached by Bob Groseth “and we had a great relationship. He helped me get faster every year, refined my techniques and challenged me in practices and meets.’’

In 2008, Nilsson qualified for the Olympic trials in the 200 and 400 free and 200 fly (“an exhilarating experience’’) and four years later trained with the University of Florida team for the 2012 Olympic Trial open water 10K.

After graduation, Nilsson competed in triathlons and worked as a financial analyst in Chicago. He also resided in Hawaii.

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His father, Robert, played varsity golf at MIT; his mother, Beth, was a track athlete at Bucknell; and his sister, Emma, was a varsity swimmer at Weston High and played club water polo at NYU.

“I’ve always loved the water and have lived near it most of my life. I love swimming at L Street and Pleasure Bay,’’ said the 6-foot, 190-pound Nilsson, who has added 20 pounds “mostly muscle,’’ since his days at Northwestern.

“Competition requires time and so I have learned how to manage it,’’ he said. “I’ve never done things halfway and that’s how I approach my work. I want to get it right no matter how much effort I have to put into it.’’

Marvin Pave can be reached at marvin.pave@rcn.com.