Berta (Fotschky) Rogers, who set multiple state swimming records during her time at Bishop Noll, has been selected for April induction into the Indiana High School Swimming and Diving Hall of Fame.
Rogers, who now lives in Florida, swam at Bishop Noll her sophomore ’77 and junior ’78 years and was the first IHSAA individual swimming state gold medalist in Bishop Noll history.
Her sophomore year record-setting season earned her hall of fame status. She was a standout at the fourth annual IHSAA girls state swim and diving championships, held Dec. 16-17, 1977, at Ball State University.
Rogers outdistanced previous champions to win and establish state records in both the 200-yard individual medley (2:12.540) and the 500-freestyle (5:11.847), and was part of Noll's championship and record-setting 200-medley relay (1:56.949).
Rogers shared the medley relay state title with team members Denise Bercik ’81, Maureen Brown ’80 and Wendy Ruddy ’78.
Rogers’ record-setting performances led Bishop Noll to a fifth-place team finish at state.
She also won each of those same events at the Merrillville sectional, and was the sectional's top individual point-getter (40 points).
As a junior, she was sectional champion in the 100-free and 200-IM, and finished fourth and third, respectively, in those events at state. Her 200-medley relay team placed second.
Before her senior year, Rogers’ family moved to New Zealand where she swam with members of the New Zealand National team. Still, she considers Bishop Noll her official high school.
“I went to three different high schools. Bishop Noll was the best by far,” she said.
Jim Tonkovich, of Schererville, was the head boys and girls swim coach at BNI from 1974-1984.
“I began coaching Roberta in 1972 at Lansing Swim Organization and eventually when she graduated from St. Ann in Lansing, she came to Bishop Noll. She was one of the top age group swimmers in the state of Illinois and continued that in high school, obviously by being a three-time state champion and state record holder. She was always a very hard worker and strived to always be outstanding.”
Tonkovich has served on the board of directors for the Indiana High School Swimming and Diving Hall of Fame since its inception in 2007. He himself was an inductee the first year. Among his accomplishments was coaching the Bishop Noll boys swim team to win the state championship in 1981 and 1984.
The hall of fame typically inducts two or three coaches and five or six athletes at each ceremony, which is only done every fourth year.
In just her two years of swimming at Noll, Rogers had more than enough points to qualify for hall of fame status, Tonkovich said.
“She is the first swimmer from Bishop Noll to qualify for the hall of fame, which is really quite awesome. In 31 years as coach, I only have had one other athlete make it to the hall of fame.”
Rogers said she was honored to receive the honor.
“I spent a lot of hours in chlorinated water,” she joked. “I really never expected this. It was a very pleasant surprise. I wish my mom was here to experience it with me. She was my biggest supporter.”
Her BNI teammates also cheered her on and made her feel like she belonged.
“I swam with some very special people. We spent a lot of time together. I always liked our home meets. We would do these crazy cheers. The race I remember most is the 200 medley relay at the 1977 State Championships. It was a great team effort and we won!”
She said the most important thing Coach Tonkovich taught her was not to expect her times to improve every time she raced.
“I was my own worst enemy in that area,” she said. “I was very hard on myself. He also tried to make practices fun sometimes. We needed a break every once in a while.”
Her time at Bishop Noll left her with happy memories.
“I was pretty awkward back then and felt most comfortable in the pool. I had some good non-swimming friends, but not sure they really understood why I spent numerous hours of the day in the swimming pool. My most memorable class was chemistry lab. We had some good times trying not to set things on fire.”
Through social media, Rogers has reconnected with some old classmates.
“It is nice to ‘talk’ to them. I have met up with one of them. I need to be better at picking up the phone ... just seems odd to do after so many years.”
Post high school, Rogers graduated from The Medical College of Georgia with a BS in nursing (’85). In 2005, she graduated from the University of St. Francis in Joliet, Ill. (satellite program in Tennessee) with a master’s degree in health service administration (’05). She is currently the director of nursing at The Center for Specialized Surgery in Fort Myers, Fla.
Rogers met her husband, Bruce, in 2001 and they will celebrate their 15th wedding anniversary in April. Her other family members include Bruce’s two daughters: Kimberlee and Kristen; Kimberlee’s husband, Ivan; and two grandchildren, Holden, 13, and Kyndal, 11. In addition, she has six brothers and sisters (Paul, 69; Art, 67; Joe, 53; Meg, 65; Fran, 59; and Kathy, 52.)
“My parents are no longer with us, but I have great memories of them both. My dad was the quiet one, but always supportive. My mom was the ultimate swimming mom … I could always hear her cheering for me at swim meets; sometimes I could hear her while I was actually in the water swimming!”
The hall of fame induction is scheduled for April 14, 2019. Rogers is unable to attend but has asked Tonkovich to accept her award on her behalf.