Denton senior DJ Lang still has one more season to improve upon his fourth- and fifth-place finishes at the state meet and says he intends to contend for a title in February. In the meantime, he’s taken the next step toward his collegiate career by signing a national letter of intent with Alabama on Thursday.
Lang has spent much of his life in the water. He’s been swimming competitively since seventh grade, and at Denton he is the team captain and holds a multitude of records. Lang also swims for the Lakeside Aquatic Club.
Before Lang can get back to the Class 4A state meet at the Lee and Joe Jamail Texas Swim Center in Austin, he will have several chances to cut down on his times.
“Last season at Denton went really well,” Lang said. “This year I’m looking to be in the top three, if not first, in both of those [the 100-yard and 200 freestyle]. With the work that I’m doing at club and the work in high school combined, I feel like I have a good chance at first in at least one of those.”
While Lang feels pressure this season to represent not only Denton and Lakeside but also Alabama, Denton coach Chris Cullen said he will able to concentrate on his times now that he’s chosen a school.
“The hard part is the deciding,” Cullen said. “I think the pressure should be off a little bit. Now instead of focusing on next year, he can focus on this year and swimming fast, doing well at the state championship and trying to break more records for the school. Now he can focus on his personal goals.”
Lang and Cullen still have a decision to make regarding which events he enters at state, and that will hinge on several factors. He competes in the 50, 100 and 200 freestyle races and two relay events, and he has to choose which two he wants to specialize in.
“We have all the way until late January and district to decide,” Cullen said. “It’s not what he can make state in; it’s how high he can make state in. You can only pick two events.”
Lang chose Alabama over Texas A&M, Georgia Tech, Utah, Kentucky, and Missouri Science and Technology. He wants to study electrical engineering.
“The coaches were welcoming from the first time I stepped onto the campus for my official visit,” Lang said. “When we got to the hotel the first night, most of the team showed up at the hotel and greeted us. That was really nice, and it made me feel like they actually wanted us to be there and be a part of the team.
“They’re more of a work-minded group. They’re not going to tolerate slacking off, and they want you to work. I know at least for the sprint coach, he’s more technically minded, and I’m really into that technical aspect of swimming.”
Cullen said Lang will fit right in at Alabama and in the Southeastern Conference.
“He’s good at race strategies, and I think he’s just going to get bigger, stronger and faster,” Cullen said. “He just needs to continue to work hard. He’s focused and he’s dedicated, so all of those things allow him to keep improving.”
Lang’s signing could help his Denton teammates.
“It’s great,” Cullen said. “It shows the kids that there’s an option that you can go and swim, so they just keep working hard. There’s a number of freshmen here that are looking, and that kind of inspires them. It sets the bar high enough that they can be challenged.”
Lang said he wants to be successful as soon as he hits the water in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
“[I want] to help them win SEC championships, if not the NCAAs, and then possibly go to Olympic trials in 2016,” Lang said.
PATRICK HAYSLIP can be reached at 940-566-6873 and via Twitter at @PatrickHayslip.