The news came out of left field.
Berta (Fotschky) Rogers was surprised to say the least when she heard she was being inducted into the Indiana High School Swimming and Diving Hall of Fame.
“It was totally out of left field,” Rogers said. “I didn’t even know there was such a thing.”
She hadn’t lived in Indiana since her junior year at Bishop Noll, after which she went to New Zealand to train for a year, then completed her high school education in Georgia.
She hadn’t swam competitively since roughly 1995, after she stopped competing in triathlons.
The moment that probably got her into the Hall of Fame — her three gold medals for Noll at the 1977 state meet — was more than four decades ago.
“It’s pretty cool,” Rogers said. “After all these years, you’re thinking, ‘OK, well, that was a lifetime ago,’ but it’s kind of neat to be reminded of it.”
The banquet takes place on April 14. The state finals take place this weekend in Indianapolis.
Rogers was always going to swim. It was a family tradition. You could swim. Or you could dive.
“I think a lot of it was (my mom) did not know how to swim,” Rogers said. “I think she was determined to make sure we knew how to swim.”
“We actually all liked it. Part of it might have been because we didn’t know any better. This is pretty much what we did.”
Rogers joined several of her swim friends in making the trip from Lansing to Hammond to attend Bishop Noll. A big draw was the coach, Jim Tonkovich, who she swam for in the Lansing Swim Organization.
“It opened up a lot of doors,” Tonkovich said. “I knew the family and they felt comfortable with me.”
Tonkovich, already a HOF member, was essentially starting a brand-new program at Bishop Noll. He had roughly 20 girls, far smaller than the teams he would later coach.
Rogers barely noticed.
“When you’re at the age we were, you’re probably not going to like this answer, but it’s the truth, you don’t even pay attention to that stuff,” Rogers said.
She and her teammates just did what they knew best.
Toward the tail end of 1977, that meant a long run, a run worthy of Hall of Fame consideration.
After finishing fifth at sectionals, Bishop Noll finished fifth in the state, as Rogers won and set then-state records in the 200-yard individual medley (2 minutes, 12.54 seconds) and the 500 free (5:11.84).
“There were events that we didn’t even score a point in because that was only the second or third year of our program,” Tonkovich said. “We were still scrambling to get the sport going.”
Rogers’ favorite was the 200 medley relay. She teamed with Denise Bercik, Maureen Brown and Wendy Ruddy to win the event in 1:56.94.
She remembers a neck-and-neck race through the first three legs. When she dove into the water for the final leg of the relay, she recalled being a half-body behind.
“Just put my head down and go,” Rogers said.
Long after that race was won and long after her swim career was over, when friends would ask whether all that time in the pool was worth it, she never hesitated.
“A lot of people ask, you spent so much time, do you feel like you missed out on other things,” Rogers said. “Well, one, I didn’t know any better at the time, but two, I don’t think so. I don’t feel like I did. I feel like if I had to do it all over again, I probably would do the same thing.”