When D.J. Lang entered the swimming program as a freshman, he looked around and wondered where everyone was. He saw only 10 boys.
Now, two years later, Lang, a junior, and seniors Anthony Milbitz and Cody Knapp have helped resurrect the program.
It started when the three made a pact to accomplish something that no one had accomplished since 2002 — a berth at the state swim meet in Austin. That dream quickly became a reality as the three, along with then senior Austin Bailey, qualified for the 2011 state meet.
Not satisfied with their performance in the 200-yard medley relay, the boys set the goal of returning and making a better showing. They not only made it back to state in the 200 medley but also qualified in the 200 freestyle relay in 2012.
“The swimming program at DHS has grown over the past two years since we have qualified for state, and more students want to be a part of something successful,” coach Robin Hay said. “The additional swimmers on the team are helping us get closer to winning team championships at the district and regional levels.”
Now, as Milbitz and Knapp enter their senior season, anything less than a return trip to the state meet for the third straight year would be a disappointment to all three of them.
“We’ve been [to state] two years in a row, so if we didn’t make it back again it would be a big letdown since it is our senior year,” Milbitz said. “We’ve made a commitment and we all work hard, because we don’t want to let each other down at this point.”
They know that an unprecedented third trip to the state meet will require a lot of work.
“I get up early to be at all the high school practices early every morning, from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m.,” Lang said. “Then, every afternoon, I do two and a half hours with club. It’s really tiring, but I’ve progressed so much over the past three years, putting in the time and effort each day.”
Even with all the time and effort they put in, the swimmers realize that they can’t break records every time out but instead try to make some improvements.
“Not every meet is everybody going to put in their best time,” Milbitz said. “So really, we just try to make sure our individual splits are improving. Then, when it comes time to race at district and regionals, we all have to put in our best times.”
Lang has continued to improve from year to year by changing his technique.
“I think between freshman and sophomore year I have changed a lot in my stroke technique, and even more so last year,” Lang said. “This year I’ve changed a lot on flips and getting a better catch for freestyle. For fly, my rhythm and tempo have gotten a lot better.”
One of the amazing things about the team’s success is that each season for the past three, there has been a newcomer, but that hasn’t stopped the team from reaching its goals.
“The bar has been raised the past few years, and it has gotten very competitive for that last spot,” Milbitz said. “Our entire team is really talented, so whenever someone graduates, there is someone good waiting to replace them.”
“We have quite a few boys who want a spot on that relay team,” Hay said. “They know that with hard work and dedication, it could belong to them.”
Milbitz knows that the team is better because everyone has put in the effort, but he says that something more simple has contributed to its success.
“It’s not always about who works the hardest — although that is a big part of it,” Milbitz said. “It’s who sticks with it. Because I’ve been swimming seven years, and I’ve seen people much more talented than me quit swimming. So sticking with it helps.”
Knapp also has big expectations for the team this year, but doesn’t feel like he’s been putting in enough effort to make those expectations become reality just yet.
“I need to start working harder,” Knapp said. “It’s my senior year, and I’ve gone both times the past two years, so anything less than that would — it just wouldn’t be right.”
CHANDLER ELSBECKER is a sophomore at Denton High School and a
participant in the Record-Chronicle’s “Speak Out Loud” writing program for