Third annual ‘Meters for Mike’ event

Swimmers from the College honor the life of  2009 graduate Mike Heaney. (Photo courtesy of The Sports Information Desk)
Swimmers from the College honor the life of 2009 graduate Mike Heaney. (Photo courtesy of The Sports Information Desk)

Over 1,000 supporters turned out for the third annual Meters for Mike event to honor the life and memory of 2009 swimmer and graduate Mike Heaney.

Heaney was struck by a car while riding his bike on April 11, 2012, suffering severe brain damage. Heaney was a fighter, spending the next year and a half battling for his life before passing away on November 9, 2013.

“Mike was a great motivator,” said head swimming and diving coach Brian Bishop. “He was one of the hardest workers I’ve ever coached.”

After his passing, four of Heaney’s teammates at the College were looking for a way to honor their late friend. Steve Swenson ’06, Liam Gallagher ’08, Chris Levin ’08 and Mike Molloy ’09, along with Bishop and Heaney’s family, coordinated Meters for Mike just months after Heaney’s accident to pay for his medical bills.

Over the next two years, Meters for Mike grew in popularity and continued to raise money for Heaney’s medical care.

After Heaney’s passing, the brain trust behind the event decided to continue the annual event in memory of Heaney, with donations and money raised going to the Brain Injury Alliance of New Jersey to help others in Heaney’s position.

In the first year of the event after Heaney’s passing, over $30,000 was raised, excluding sponsorships and donations from the event, with a record of over 1,000 combined participants and supporters.

Heaney’s friends, family and fellow Lions invaded Belmar Beach on Saturday, Sept. 20, to show their support for Heaney.

Volunteers from across New Jersey turned out to make the event such a success. With help from the Belmar Police and Beach Patrol, TCNJ Swimming and Diving teams and alumni, Meters from Mike has become the third-largest, open-water swim in New Jersey history.

Swimmers from across the region came out to show their support for Heaney and his family. Participants from Rider University, Stevens Institute of Technology, Rowan University, Montclair State University, Princeton University, University of Pennsylvania and St. Peter’s College, along with local youth swim teams, took part in the one-mile open.

Both the men and women’s swimming and diving teams from the College participated in the event.

“I was really nervous because it was my first ocean swim, but I thought it was a lot of fun and for a great cause,” junior club swim team member Lindsay Walheim said.

In his time at the College, Heaney was a co-captain of the swimming and diving team and held the program’s backstroke record at the time of his graduation.

Coach Bishop said he expects next year’s event to be even more successful than years past.

“We have set records for three straight years now,” Bishop said. “And I’d like to do that again next year. Maybe we can make (Meters for Mike) a nation-wide event.