Teammates, coaches and more than a few competitors can testify to Taylor Dale’s speed in the pool.
This week, the 17-year-old Dalton High senior has been letting the whole country know how much progress he’s made in the past few years.
Representing the Carpet Capital Aquatics Club, Dale swam to a first-place finish in the 100-meter backstroke Thursday night at USA Swimming’s Speedo Junior National Championships in Indianapolis. Dale finished in 55.98 seconds, ahead of North Texas Nada’s Aaron Greene (56.31) and a pair of swimmers who tied for third at 56.50, Orinda Aquatics’ Sven Campbell and SwimMAC Carolina’s Matthew Josa.
Dale was seeded third going into the finals after turning in a 56.61 during preliminaries — behind Greene and Josa, who swam in different heats than Dale — but he was determined to touch the wall first when it mattered most.
“It felt great,” he said. “Going in I knew what I needed to do to pull out that first. I knew I had to get the right mindset, get everything on track and swim the race.”
Charles Todd, the head coach of Dalton High’s program and the CCAC Makos, said what separated Dale from the field was his underwater performance — the opening stretch in the 50-meter long course pool and the point when he makes the turn for the lap back. In maximizing his time underwater, Dale picked up a big performance boost.
Todd said that’s one of the technical points he emphasizes as a coach, and it made a difference in this race.
“And then that back half, he kicked it in,” Todd said.
Dale said he didn’t take the lead until the race’s halfway point.
“I knew going in it was going to be tough, because they were great competitors,” Dale said. “Going into the turn, I was actually behind. I was second — really close to third — so I knew I had to step it up and bring it home to get the gold.”
Thursday’s race was Dale’s best effort yet this week at the meet, which will continue today with Dale competing in the 50 freestyle. He was 13th in the 100 butterfly on Wednesday and 17th in the 200 backstroke.
At last year’s Junior National Championships at Stanford University, Dale took 16th in the 100 backstroke with a time of 58.05.
“He is very coachable,” Todd said.
“For the last year and a half, he’s hardly had a day off from the pool. He’s worked hard to get to this point, and it’s not easy, I can tell you that. He’s put in the work and paid his dues in the morning and the evening.”
But this week is just the latest round of accomplishments for Dale. Earlier this summer, he competed in the U.S. Olympic Trials, where his time of 57.74 was 84th out of 127 swimmers. And while competing for Dalton High this past winter at the GHSA’s Class A-4A state meet, Dale won the 100 backstroke and 100 butterfly, and he was also part of the 200 medley relay championship.
Todd said there are plenty of college coaches watching this week in Indianapolis, and many of them will likely be even more eager to talk to Dale.
As for Dale, he said when this meet ends he’ll put his focus heavily on the classroom, although he will participate in the new water polo club team at Dalton High. The Cats’ swimming and diving season starts in November, and Dale said a major goal is setting a national record in the 100 backstroke.
“I’ve talked to some college coaches and met with some others at meets and stuff,” he said. “But I’m just trying to keep an open mind and worry more about school.”
The other CCAC swimmer competing this week in Indianapolis didn’t make Thursday’s 100 backstroke final, but 14-year-old Ethan Young gave another promising sign with the result he turned in during a time trial.
Young finished his 100 backstroke preliminary in 58.53, but during a time trial — a sanctioned bonus race that doesn’t count toward the meet results but is official — he came in at 58.22. Todd said that’s the fourth-fastest time ever turned in by a 14-year-old U.S. swimmer, with the group ahead of Young including Olympic medalist Aaron Peirsol.
For Young, this week, when most of the competition is high school junior and seniors, has let him know how far he’s come and how far he has to go.
“Right now it’s all about seeing where I’m at,” said Young, a Dalton High freshman. “I set my goals yearly and this is just a reference point to put me in the right direction. As far as training and motivation, this has been a huge motivation factor that hopefully will carry me on through this next season.”
Todd, who has been talking up Young’s potential for years, was pleased with the big swim.
“He’s a solid performer, a gamer,” the coach said. “He gets up and goes at it. “Both he and (Dale) have been practicing hard and pushing each other, so it should be exciting times ahead for the Dalton Catamounts and Carpet Capital.”