Time was running out for Alex Walton.
The former Muscatine swimmer from Wilton, who won three individual state swimming titles as a Muskie, wanted to qualify for as many USA Olympic trial events as possible before the summer ended and he began his freshman year at Missouri.
He didn’t get his 100 backstroke time down far enough in his first two tries at a Speedo sectional in Columbia, Missouri, on July 17, but took a shot and registered for a time trial spot for the next day.
“It was coming down to crunch time,” Walton said.
The three-time all-American delivered under pressure with a time of 56.97 seconds, securing a spot in next June’s USA Swimming trials in Omaha, Nebraska, with top swimmers from around the country.
The qualifying standard for the 100 backstroke is set at 57.19 seconds.
Donald Spellman, head coach of the Iowa City Eels swimming club that Walton swam for up until two weeks after graduating from Wilton, said the biggest hurdle for Walton was getting his technique down.
“He has the aerobic conditioning, he’s powerful, strong and tall with a great kick,” Spellman said, “but he can die out in races sometimes or get sloppy in technical parts, ... stuff that he nailed in the time trial.”
Walton acknowledged that he worked too hard in the first 50 meters during the prelims and finals of the actual 100 backstroke event and didn’t have enough gas for the final 50. He turned in times of 57.40 in the prelims and 57.62 in the finals.
“It was really just cleaning up my swimming for a smarter race,” Walton said. “When I brought it home it made a big difference.”
Muscatine coach Judd Anderson said Walton is the first Muscatine swimmer to qualify for the Olympic trials after swimming all four years for the Muskies.
Tate Jackson, who swam with the Muskies as a freshman in 2012 before moving to Austin, Texas, made the 50 freestyle cut last summer. Crissy Ahmann, who swam for Muscatine for one season, won two relay gold medals and an individual silver medal in the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona.
“[Walton’s] got all the potential to do everything,” Anderson said. “He’s big and strong, got a great work ethic and there may be no limitation to what he can do.”
With one event out of the way, Walton said he plans to work on getting his times cut in three other events before the start of the Trials on June 26, 2016.
He’s been working with his Missouri coaches and teammates to get better times in the 200 individual medley, 200 backstroke and 200 freestyle. He’ll race in the National Championships event this weekend in San Antonio, Texas.
Spellman said Missouri will have events planned for the winter, and Walton will also have opportunities after the college season ends to get his times down.
As for what Walton wants to do once he gets to Omaha next June, he expects to just let it soak in.
“It’s a big accomplishment just making it there,” Walton said. “I’ll do my best and see what happens.”