Walton has qualified for state in nearly every individual event
District 51 swimmer Tyler Walton is versatile in the pool.
Whatever Griffins coach Dale Leonhart needs him to swim, he can do. Walton has qualified for the May 15-16 state swim meet at Edora Pool and Ice Center in Fort Collins in the 50-yard freestyle, 100 freestyle, 200 freestyle, 100 breaststroke, 100 backstroke, 100 butterfly and the 200 individual medley.
The only individual event Walton has yet to qualify for is the 500 freestyle.
“The only reason he hasn’t qualified for the 500 is because he hasn’t swam it, but he’ll swim it this weekend and he’ll qualify,” Leonhart said.
Leonhart said in his nearly 40 years of coaching high school swimming he has had 8 to 10 kids be able to qualify in every individual event.
“Over 39 years, I’ve had maybe a dozen kids that are that well rounded enough to do it,” Leonhart said.
Although Walton will potentially qualify for every individual event, he can only swim two individual events at the state tournament. Walton said he will swim the 200 free and either the 100 free or the 50 free.
The sophomore swimmer swam the 200 free at last year’s state tournament finishing 13th. He was happy about the outcome, but Walton said he also learned about the level of competition at the state meet.
“You have to give it your all in the prelims and the finals,” Walton said. “They definitely don’t mess around in the prelims, and I found that the hard way.”
Walton will also be on two of the three relay teams that qualified for state.
“My goal for this year is to make it into the top 8,” Walton said. “Last year, I made it top 16 as a freshman so it’s a possibility, but it’ll be tough.”
Although the state meet is still a couple of weeks away for Walton, the task at hand this weekend is the Southwestern League Championships in Montrose. The Griffins are attempting to not only get a few more individual state qualifiers, but also win their second straight SWL championship.
“We want to win the championship,” Leonhart said. “I value high school swimming as a team event, and I like to nurture that team concept.”
The Griffins have had to rely on the team concept all season as they have been hampered by injuries. District 51 lost one of its best swimmers, Ben Krane, to a shoulder injury and have had other role swimmers miss time as well.
“We have been like a walking MASH unit all season,” Leonhart said. “But this is a versatile group with kids who can swim a lot of things, which is huge for us because we could have been devastated, but we’ve been able to hang on.”
The SWL Championships, a two-day event, begins today.