Northeast Tarrant

Parents of drowned Southlake swimmer remember her ‘zest for life’

Elise Cerami, 13, at a swim meet. Cerami died in a drowning accident Monday.
Elise Cerami, 13, at a swim meet. Cerami died in a drowning accident Monday. Family photo.

Elise Cerami was only 13, but she already saw her future.

She would study engineering at Texas A&M, because she loved building things, and then earn a law degree at SMU, because she liked to argue her point. One day, she hoped, she would become a patent attorney.

Cerami’s parents on Tuesday remembered their daughter as a smart girl “with a zest for life” who enjoyed a challenge.

Elise, an experienced swimmer with the North Texas Nadadores club, was pronounced dead Monday afternoon, several hours after being pulled from the pool at the Carroll school district’s Aquatics Center in Southlake.

The Tarrant County medical examiner’s office on Tuesday ruled her death an accidental drowning.

But it was unclear why Elise sank into the water after a routine warmup session about 6:45 a.m.

When her teammates realized she hadn’t surfaced, they pulled her out, and staff members, including coach Bill Christensen, administered CPR while awaiting paramedics.

Elise was taken to Baylor Regional Medical Center and then Cook Children’s Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead at 1:04 p.m.

A community memorial service is scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday at the Carroll Senior High School auditorium, said Julie Thannum, a Carroll school district spokeswoman. A funeral mass is planned for 10 a.m. Saturday at Good Shepherd Catholic Church in Colleyville.

After Elise was taken away in an ambulance Monday, Christensen began showing symptoms of a heart attack. He later underwent surgery and was in good condition in intensive care Tuesday, Thannum said.

The school district closed the Aquatics Center on Monday and Tuesday, but planned to re-open the pool Wednesday, Thannum said.

‘Fierceness in her face’

Elise, who just completed eighth grade at Carroll Middle School, would have attended Carroll High in the fall.

Her parents declined a phone interview Tuesday but described their daughter in emails to the Star-Telegram.

For as much as she focused on her future, they said, she had the priorities of any normal teen, like watching her favorite shows, Supernatural and Arrow, on Netflix and making Carroll’s varsity swim team.

She loved to read and work math problems, her father said, and listen to her favorite band, 5 Seconds of Summer, an Australian pop group. She had a little brother and a Weimaraner dog named Thibs.

When she was 7, she started swimming competitively and joined the Nadadores two years later.

She competed in the breaststroke and the 400-meter individual medley, a combination of four swimming styles in one race. On her braces, she wore blue and yellow rubber bands to match the Nadadores’ colors.

After a swim meet two years ago, her father knew that Elise, who also played tennis, had found the right sport.

“You could see the fierceness in her face,” her father, David Cerami, wrote to the Star-Telegram. “This girl was a swimmer!”

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