BRADEN RIVER — Ryan Walker is treading in uncharted waters.
After becoming Braden River High’s first multiple event district champion two weeks ago, the sophomore swimmer traveled Nov. 9 for the first time to the Class 3A-Region 3 meet, where he was the top seed in the 50-yard freestyle.
Walker lived up to expectations in his regional debut, winning the event in 22.13 seconds.
In addition to winning the regional title, the 15-year-old also bettered his previous best time of 22.20 seconds.
As the regional champion, Walker advances to the Class 3A Swimming and Diving Championships Nov. 15, in Stuart.
“It feels good,” Walker says. “Last year when I started swimming, I didn’t make it to regionals. So, it’s good to see that my hard work is paying off.”
Walker began swimming last season for something fun to do in addition to playing football. Walker swam for Manatee High last fall before transferring to Braden River this year.
After last season, Walker decided to concentrate solely on swimming in the hopes of receiving a college scholarship.
Walker joined the Lakewood Ranch Wave Runners swim team following his freshman season.
Walker averaged between 8,000 and 9,000 yards in the pool this season between Braden River and Wave Runners practices — something to which he credits his improvement.
“This year, I really stepped up my training and worked a lot harder,” Walker says.
Walker also has learned about competing at a high level from Braden River coach Tripp Schwenk, who won a gold medal in the 4x100 relay and a silver medal in the 200 backstroke at the 1996 Summer Olympics.
“He’s basically done it all,” Walker says. “It’s nice to be around someone who has achieved basically everything in the sport. He’s taught me new stuff that I didn’t know before and gets on me for the little technical things.”
Walker made school history, winning both the 50 and 100 freestyle at the Class 3A-District 8 meet Nov. 2.
Now, Walker hopes to add a state championship to his list of accolades while dropping his time into the 21-second range.
“It’s awesome to see in a year’s time that my training has paid off,” Walker says.
Contact Jen Blanco at firstname.lastname@example.org.