They don’t want to underachieve at the state meet for a second straight year. After beating Lassiter at the Cobb County Championships last season, they didn’t even finish in the top 10 at the Class AAAAA state meet. They had to settle for 11th, while the Trojans finished second behind Parkview.
Most of the damage for Walton came when its 200 medley and 200 freestyle relay teams were both disqualified in the preliminaries. Had the disqualifications not happened, and the Raiders finished in the top eight, they would have likely been a top-five team.
The medley relay was disqualified when it was called for a stroke infraction on the breaststroke leg. The freestyle relay was penalized for taking off to early on the third leg.
With most of Walton’s two relay teams returning this season, the DQs still loom, and the swimmers wouldn’t mind going back to the basics.
“Last year, we didn’t have high expectations, but with the DQs, we would have been third last year,” Walton coach Sharon Loughran said. “It’s about execution. If we can get them to execute, they will be very strong.
“In the prelims, there’s no excuse to disqualify. You can’t take off too early in preliminary. In our mind, we have to get in the top heat. We can be a little safer in preliminary, and you can’t DQ.”
Knowing that swim meets cause a lot of adrenaline due to the crowd noise, Walton’s relays will key in on sharpening their takeoffs.
Loughran said the breaststroke disqualification rule gets a lot of the top swimmers — a topic that will likely be discussed at Thursday’s practice. She stated that the swimmers’ hands have to initiate their breaststroke pullout before kicking off after every start, and every turn, of the race.
Disqualifications often occur when a swimmer’s hands aren’t initiating the breaststroke pullout.
“This (practice) will give us a chance to work out anything that we need to work out and to help us get better as a team,” said Jack Gunning, who was on the disqualified medley relay team last year.
If Walton can remain mistake-free Friday and Saturday, it’s hoping to use its depth to compete with Lassiter and other powerhouses like Parkview, Chattahoochee and Alpharetta.
At the county meet — a competition that averages 15 teams — 20 swimmers from each event can make the finals. At state — where there are close to 50 teams — only 16 are allowed into the final, making depth points less relevant.
But if swimmers like Gunning, Nathan Hufnagel, Thomas Kelley, David Dingess, Jacob Williams can make the top 16 of their individual events, Walton can prosper with its depth.
“With Walton, their front-tier talent is better than last year on both boys and girls,” Kennesaw Mountain coach David Reason said. “That makes them a bigger threat.”