Dalton High School senior Taylor Dale needed one day to build a legacy that caused his coach to put him above all other swimmers he has seen.
But in three years, freshman teammate Ethan Young could rise above Dale’s lofty level.
Dale and Young are part of the group competing for the Catamounts today and Saturday in the Class A-5A state championship meet at Georgia Tech. They hope to win a slew of individual titles and also a team championship.
At last season’s Class A-4A state meet, Dale won three state championships — two individual titles, the 100-yard backstroke and 100 butterfly, and one relay, the 200 medley. The performance caused Dalton coach Charles Todd to say after Dale’s final race that he “has the most talent” of anyone in the program’s history.
“I’ve coached Olympic swimmers, and he’s probably got the most talent out of anyone I’ve seen,” Todd said a year ago. “He potentially could be the best.”
This season, Dale will defend his title and also go for a crown in the 400 freestyle, an event he finished fourth in last year. He could graduate with seven individual state titles, far exceeding what Todd calls the highest level any Dalton High swimmer has achieved.
“I’ve had double winners, but never triple,” he said.
This year Young — who watched Dale’s accomplishments from the side last season as an eighth-grader for whom the buzz was already building — will help Dale on each relay team and compete against him in each individual event.
In the 100 backstroke, Dale is the top seed and Young is second. In the 100 butterfly, Dale is second and Young is third.
“We’ve been talking a lot about sweeping the podium in both events,” Dale said, noting junior Taylor Mathis also will compete in the events. “Maybe we can win both relays and hopefully come home with the whole state championship.”
Todd doesn’t mind comparing Dale and Young beyond similar times.
“Their underwaters are similar, very strong under water,” Todd said. “Head to head, Taylor probably beats him under water. Ethan has great turnover, really strong above water with his arms. Taylor has really strong legs and great technique.”
Young holds the USA Swimming 14-and-under national record for the 200 backstroke with a time of 1 minute, 46.56 seconds. He also earned the respect of Dale long ago.
The two have competed with and against one another for nine years through the Carpet Capital Aquatics Club, competed together at last year’s USA Swimming 2012 Speedo Junior National Championships in Indianapolis and the USA Swimming Speedo Winter Junior Nationals in Knoxville, Tenn. Dale won the 100 backstroke (55.98) with the 19th-fastest time in the world in the 18-and-under group and 44th fastest for all ages.
“He’s like an older brother to me,” Young said.
Young also hears comparisons to the senior from friends, people at school and strangers. However, it doesn’t affect him beyond the random occurrence of the two being on the same high school team, even if for only one season.
“It’s pretty cool for this little small town in the northwest corner of Georgia to have two really fast nationwide-ranked swimmers,” Young said, noting the two have built a healthy but competitive friendship in the pool.
The freshman said he can beat Dale in the 200 backstroke, but that’s it. Considering he’s just a freshman, he’ll have a lot of time to catch up to Dale’s senior times in the other events. And he’s getting a relative head start.
Dale did not devote himself entirely to swimming until he quit baseball after his freshman year.
“My freshman year in the 100 backstroke, I was going (55 seconds). He’s going 49,” Dale said. “Over the years, he has just had swimming and has accomplished a lot and is still young.”
Todd said it shows, because Dale as a freshman wasn’t as good as Young is now.
“He’s faster than Michael Phelps was at 14,” Todd said. “He’s got that great potential (ahead of him). He can either do something with it or he can shy away from it.
“A lot of people shy away from it, because it’s too hard. They want to be great but don’t want to sacrifice the time. Taylor has sacrificed time to be great.”