Gabriel Erb nearly lost his life when he was just 10 weeks old.
Now, he's one of the best Carroll swimmers in the 8-and-under age division.
"With everything that he's been through with his heart, he wasn't supposed to be here and he is, and that's a gift," said Alexandra Clark, Erb's mother.
Erb, a New Windsor resident, had emergency heart-saving surgery. Since then, he's become involved with swimming and accomplished things that at one point his mother thought might not be possible.
"So this is just an amazing time for him," Clark said. "To be able to watch him do something that he really enjoys, that's great."
It was only a matter of time before Erb, 8, became involved with swimming. Growing up, he has had a pool in his backyard and an older brother and sister who both joined swim teams.
"Once my big sister and my big brother began swimming, I really wanted to go swimming," Erb said.
So when Erb was 5, Clark said she signed him up for swimming lessons. The next year, Erb joined a swim team.
"He kind of came along and we threw him in the pool with them," Clark said. "That's how he got started really."
At the Carroll County Invitational swim meet on July 16, Erb represented the Carroll Aquatics Swim Club well, winning four events. He began the evening by finishing the 25-meter freestyle in 17.78 seconds, tying for first with Westminster Swim Team's Will Litz.
He then won the 25-meter backstroke, finishing in 20.84 seconds. And later he won both the 25-meter breaststroke (23.89) and 25-meter butterfly (21.76).
"It was really exciting to get the backstroke time," Erb said.
But going into the races, Clark said she didn't want Erb to focus on getting the best times.
"He was so excited," Clark said. "I try to downplay it, I don't let him see the heat sheet, I don't let him see where he's seeded. I said, 'Just go do your Gabriel thing.'"
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That turned out to be a pretty beneficial approach, as Erb picked up four wins for Carroll Aquatics. But it was the impressive backstroke time that meant the most to Erb.
"There was a little smile on his face the whole meet after he found out he got a ribbon in the backstroke," Clark said. "He was on top of the world."
Erb's siblings also performed well. Six-year-old Jeremiah Erb won a pair of races, and Isabelle Erb won the 25-meter backstroke in the 9-10 girls division.
Gabriel Erb followed up his impressive county meet performance by scoring points again for Carroll Aquatics at the Straehle Invitational this past Wednesday. He finished eighth in the 25-meter freestyle, sixth in the 25-meter backstroke, and third in the 25-meter breaststroke with a time of 23.43 seconds.
But for Clark, the best thing is just being able to see her some still alive. Everything else that her son has been able to accomplish is just an added bonus.
"It's amazing. It's such a gift," Clark said. "Everything else is just icing on the cake."
Reach staff writer Jake Rill at 410-857-7896 or firstname.lastname@example.org.