Brandon Walker is bringing in new methods as the latest head coach of Durango Swim Club and he showed it on Sunday, when he changed out of his polo and swam the mixed 800-meter freestyle relay, the final event of the Durango SCM High Altitude Classic, which was held Saturday and Sunday at the Durango Community Recreation Center.
Walker, 24, grew up in California and Oklahoma and currently attends Fort Lewis College. He took over for former coach Frank Comerford in April and has quickly found success, as the team won its third meet under new leadership.
“I just wanted to go in and help the girls get through the last race of the day, because it was a long day of swimming,” Walker said about the relay. “I was like, ‘Well, I haven’t been doing anything all weekend, why not swim it?’ It was a spur of the moment thing that when I was putting in the race schedule and entries, I thought it’d be a fun way to end our meet.”
Walker has helped bring a new energy to the club and it has showed. DSC tallied 1,752 points over the two-day meet to get the win, while the Cortez Water Dragons took second with 771 points, Four Corners Aquatic Team out of Farmington was in third with 361 and Pagosa Lakes Porpoises was fourth with 76. The third win since May 19 came after victories at the Farmington Long Course Invitational and the Cortez Water Dragons Summer Open swim meet last weekend.
On Sunday, DSC dominated the afternoon session and won all 10 events it competed in, and there were additional top performances from the weekend. Aileen McManus won seven events in the girls 10-and-under age division. She recorded victories in the 100-meter freestyle race of 1 minute, 31 seconds, 100-meter breaststroke (1:45.21), 50-meter backstroke (44.85), 200-meter individual medley (3:49.15), 50-meter freestyle (39.86), 50-meter breaststroke (51.75) and went unopposed in the 200-meter breaststroke (3:46.85).
On the boys side, Hugo Reese continued his strong season, as he also won a number of events in the 12-and-under age range with wins in the 100-freestyle (1:08.02), 50-butterfly (36.63), 100-breaststroke (1:34.03) 400-IM (6:30.06), 200-IM (2:52.66), 100-butterfly (1:30.39) and 50-freestyle (29.86).
Walker was impressed with the performances his team put up and said there is a lot to look forward to heading into July, where DSC will be visiting bigger meets on the Western Slope.
“I was able to watch all of the swimmers compete and would write down general comments and observations about their race to give back to them so that they have feedback on how and where to improve,” Walker said. “For me, it’s about trying to be a support system for everybody on the team. I’m definitely learning about each swimmers quirks and what’s the best way each swimmer learns. We’ve been having some really good swims and our times have dropped significantly in our last three races, and there’s a lot of confidence in our team right now.”
In the 15-and-over range, Durango had standout performances from Mina Willemin, Quinn Schmidt, Rachel Thilow and on the boys side, recent Durango High School state qualifier Max Thilow put together fast times, as did Jake Burton.
“I think what it is, is that we’re establishing ourselves as one of the top teams on the Western Slope,” Walker said. “We have a lot of teams in our area that are a lot smaller than us, but we’ve been lucky enough to have this awesome facility to keep working at. Having that year-round training has been really big in building our endurance and being able to get up and swim and compete in every single race.”
DSC will have two weeks to prepare for its next meet, when it will travel up to the Grand Junction Invite June 20-23 and the Montrose Meet will be the following weekend, June 28-30.
“Moving forward, I’m really hoping that we can bring a large team to Grand Junction, and down the road at the Western Slope League Championships in July, and sort of prove what we’ve already proven here around our local area,” Walker said. “We’ve gotten off to a really good start this summer, and we want to let them know that we’re not to be messed with, and we’re at the top of the Western Slope for a reason.”