June 27, 2012

Experience counts

Dalton's Dale enjoys time in Omaha

Taylor Dale isn’t even old enough to vote, but Tuesday he held his own against the best swimmers in the United States.

The 17-year-old Dale, who is entering his senior year at Dalton High, turned in a time of 57.74 seconds while competing in the 100-meter backstroke at the U.S. Olympic Trials in Omaha, Neb. That time, his third-best ever in the event, was good enough to place 84th out of 127 swimmers from across the country and sixth out of 10 in his heat.

Dale needed a top-16 finish to advance to the next round, and only the top two swimmers at the end of qualifying will move on to next month’s games in London. He wasn’t expecting that to happen, though, so the trip was still plenty valuable to him.

“It was pretty much about the experience and having a good time, and now I have to get back and starting training again,” said Dale, who competes for the Carpet Capital Aquatics Club in USA Swimming events.

Dale was strong off the blocks and finished the first 50 meters in 27.37, making him first in his heat at the midpoint.

“I’m real proud of him,” said Charles Todd, Dale’s coach for Dalton High and CCAC swimming. “He swam hard. ... They’re letting the Olympic Trials swimmers get free massages and stuff. They’re treating them like royalty. It’s pretty special for him.”

At the Georgia High School Association’s Class A-4A meet in February, Dale won individual state titles for the Cats in the 100-yard backstroke and 100-yard butterfly. He also won the 200-yard medley relay title with teammates Wil Cushman, Omar Farag and Pierson Scarborough.

The championships came at the Georgia Tech Aquatic Center, where two months prior Dale had clocked a time of 57.36 seconds in the 100-meter backstroke during preliminary competition at the U.S. Winter Nationals. That swim locked a spot for the U.S. Olympic Trials and booked his trip to Omaha.

However, in the spring Dale turned in a 57.20 for the event, a personal best he recorded in the Columbus Grand Prix at Ohio State University. Dale entered the trials tied for the 78th-fastest qualifying time.

On Tuesday, the best first-round time came from Matt Grevers with a 52.94. Kohlton Norys clocked a 55.49 to earn 16th place, the spot Dale needed to swim again Tuesday evening to see who reaches the top eight. Those eight will swim this morning, with the top two clinching spots for the U.S. Olympic Team.

Dale previously said he probably needed to get in the range of 54 to 55 seconds to make the top 16, but mostly wanted to record a personal best and let everything else play out.

“I’m pretty happy,” Dale said. “I knew going in it would be hard to drop time. I was doing a lot of events to try and cut time to come here and swim a lot of meets. ... I’m pretty happy with how I did.”

Dale was born in 1994. According to the time sheets at the USA Swimming website, only eight swimmers at the trials were born in 1995 or 1996, while 16 were born the same year as Dale and the other 102 were older.

“I could tell I was one of the younger ones,” Dale said. “There were a couple of 16-year-olds in my event. It was good experience.”

Colleges can begin formally recruiting Dale starting July 1, and Todd believes Dale will garner a lot of interest. In four years, Dale will be a rising senior in college and should have another shot to make the Olympics as the games head to Rio in 2016.

“I think this will give him a new determination to focus on the next four years,” Todd said.

For now, Dale’s focus is on USA Swimming’s Junior Nationals on Aug. 13-17 in Indianapolis. Dale and fellow CCAC swimmer Ethan Young — the 14-year-old is entering his freshman year at Dalton High — will compete at the meet, which will showcase the country’s top swimmers ages 18 and younger. Dale said he and Young are both swimming the 100- and 200-meter backstroke; Dale also will swim the 50 freestyle, 100 butterfly and 200 individual medley.

“We were trying to shave time in a lot more events and do more trial cuts to get in more events than just one for the Olympic Trials,” Todd said. “We won’t have to do that for the Junior Nationals. Now we’ll get back to training.”

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