David Walters was ready to hang up his swimming career when he suddenly had to go back into race mode.
The Tabb High and University of Texas graduate finished 10th in the 100-meter freestyle semifinals at the U.S. Olympic Trials, two spots out of a finals berth. But after a scratch from Ryan Lochte gave Jason Lezak a spot in the finals, Walters thought he had a place in the top eight because Matt Grevers initially said he was also going to scratch.
“(Grevers) changed his mind,” Walters said. “It was a bit of a roller-coaster feeling of am I racing tomorrow or am I not?”
It’s been a roller coaster for Walters since late April, when he shattered his wrist in a bike accident and attempted to relearn to swim with a metal hinge for a wrist. Now, with no return trip to the Olympics, Walters intends to stick with his plan to retire.
Though the trials marked the end of Walters’ swimming career, the meet was a springboard for other Peninsula swimmers, despite no hopefuls from the area making the Olympic team.
“I’m ready to move on in my life and start a different career,” Walters said. “I want to travel and kind of just change gears. Swimming has just been a huge seat belt for me.”
Walters, 24, said he centered all of his decisions over the past 10 years around swimming, choosing where he went to school and where he lived after school based on it. Though he has a degree in economics that he said he eventually will put to use, Walters doesn’t intend on “signing up for a job just yet.”
The trials were a “letdown” for him. He was six-tenths of a second slower than his American-record time in the 100-meter free from 2009. He qualified for the semifinals in the 200-meter freestyle, but intended that race as just a warmup for the 100, so he scratched after the opening heat.
“I thought I was a lot stronger than I actually was, but I had the greatest intentions and tried to look past my injury and not let it hold me back,” Walters said. “I gave it 100 percent, but it was just too much of a setback going into that meet.”
Walters’ fondest memories of his swimming career were not from the 2008 Beijing Olympics, where he won a gold medal in the relay, but being a part of the Coast Guard Blue Dolphins club team in Newport News because he enjoyed the meets with his club coach, Jack Bierie.
Recent Menchville High graduate Amanda Carner, who currently swims with the Coast Guard team, also has enjoyed club and high school meets, but said the Olympic Trials “blew everything out of the water.”
“It was awesome,” Carner said. “The venue is unlike anything you could ever imagine. You walk into a room and it’s huge, and when you walk to the next room, it’s twice as big as you would’ve thought. There were a ton of people, which seems kind of overwhelming at first, but it was pretty exciting.”
Though she didn’t get past the first round of heats, Carner stayed in Omaha, Neb., for the finals races, which gave her an opportunity to see how loud it gets for the top competition. Her time in the trials was slower than her qualifying time, likely because of the unique environment. She was 114th in the 200-meter backstroke and 57th in the 400-meter individual medley.
In the short term, she said she hopes the race prepared her for what meets will be like at the University of Tennessee, where she’ll swim come fall.
“I didn’t swim as well as I would’ve hoped, but it was still a really rewarding experience,” Carner said. “I think it really helped for when I do go back (to the trials) in 2016 — or at least that’s the plan.”
Ben Colley, who just graduated from Lafayette High and has a swimming scholarship to the University of North Carolina, had a similar experience as Carner.
Swimming the 200-meter butterfly, Michael Phelps’ signature event, Colley still was shocked he was at the trials. When he got home, he watched on TV as Phelps beat Tyler Clary in the final. Colley finished 67th in the 200 butterfly, while Virginia Tech and Lafayette graduate Matt Baumler finished 124th.
Baumler was 70th in the 100-meter butterfly, and Hampton Roads Academy and University of Denver graduate Scott Madaras was 55th.
Colley said he was nervous the night before and the morning of his race, though his nervousness turned to excitement once he walked out onto the deck.
“Walking out, they have you in a waiting room,” Colley said. “It’s unlike any other meet because no coaches or other swimmers are allowed on the deck — they all have to sit in the stands. They walk you out onto the deck and you get that feeling of swimming in front of 10,000 people. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.”
For MaryElizabeth Warhol, a rising senior at York High who also swims for the Coast Guard club team, the trials were the start of what will be an important year for her as she weighs her college options. July 1 was the first day coaches could talk to and meet with her, so she started the process in Omaha. Warhol improved on her qualifying time in the 200-meter backstroke, finishing 55th, while she was 85th in the 100-meter backstroke.
“Talking to coaches and thinking about the next four years of my life, it’s just like, wow, this is coming soon,” Warhol said. “Being able to hear what the coaches have to offer and what they think about their programs and what’s important to them is amazing.”
While Warhol, Carner and Colley transition to focusing more on their future in the water, Walters also is entering a new stage of his life.
“I’m really going to try to be the type of person I want to be outside of the pool,” he said.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times