Video: Dalton Lowe – Spring High School Swim Team
HOUSTON – April 10, 2018 – As a 15-year-old Spring High School sophomore who’s already generating Olympic buzz, Dalton Lowe has plenty to think about these days — swim practice, cross-training, proper nutrition and recovery times, scheduling his next meet, finishing his homework, and finding time to hang out with family and friends.
But in the pool, there’s no time for all that thinking. In the pool, it’s just one stroke after the next, one breath after another, and the constant rush of water in his wake as he pulls out ahead, pushing himself past the competition and, more important, his own limitations.
“When you’re in the pool, you kind of lose your thoughts,” Lowe said. “When you’re swimming two hours a day, you always have to be constantly thinking about what you’re doing. Knowing what you’re doing and what you’re training on is a whole different world than just swimming laps. Mentally, you have to stay strong, and that’s the biggest part.”
Last year, during the first half of Lowe’s freshman year, when he made it into the top 35 on a list of fastest swims ever recorded by 14-year-olds in the U.S., he joined the ranks of swimmers like Michael Phelps and other current Olympians. This year, Lowe has kept pushing himself, shaving fractions of seconds off his times and continually growing both as an athlete and swimmer.
“I’m a competitive person,” Lowe said. He keeps a daily log to record what he eats, how he trains, and everything that is and isn’t working for him in the water. “You don’t want to get outworked,” he said, “so you’re always trying to outwork yourself.”
At this season’s UIL 6A Swimming and Diving State Meet in February, the Spring High Swim Team placed 17th in the state, with Lowe placing second in the 50-yard freestyle and fifth in the 100-yard butterfly. According to Spring High School science teacher and swim coach Michael Hernandez, Lowe’s time in the 50-yard freestyle ranks him as currently being the fastest 15-year-old in the U.S. Using the 2016 Olympic Trial time standard, Lowe’s time was just .05 off the Olympic qualifying time.
“He’s faster than probably five current Olympians – when they were 15, he was faster as a 15-year-old,” Hernandez said. “Maybe in 2024, when he’s a senior in college, he might make the Olympic team. But it all starts from the planning that goes on now.”
Lowe was quick to credit both Hernandez’s leadership and the inspiration of other members of the Spring swim team – including senior Aaron Parrott, who also swam in this year’s UIL State Meet and has committed to attend and swim for Drury University after graduation.
“This has been a great team to be a part of,” said Parrott, who started swimming seriously about two years ago, around the same time as Lowe. “Even though we’ve only been swimming together a relatively short period of time, it’s been eye-opening. I still remember when we used to think the 100-meter freestyle was an endurance race.”
Though Parrott will be at college next year, he’ll be keeping up with his old teammates and encouraging them to keep improving through their upcoming seasons.
“It’s all about the effort,” Parrott said, “and talent can only take you so far. One thing we’ve learned is that a large majority of it is mental. You can have all the physical and natural ability in the world, but you won’t get there if you don’t have the mental fortitude.”
According to Hernandez, that sense of drive and team spirit – together with a healthy dose of competition from their fellow swimmers – keeps the students going.
“It’s exciting because younger swimmers get to see what they’re swimming for,” said Hernandez. “When they get to see a bigger swimmer, a faster swimmer, a champion – a humble champion – that teaches them; it inspires them to do more and to stay in the sport.”
A veteran swim coach with 28 years of coaching experience, Hernandez displays a passion for the details of the sport – from nutrition science to biomechanics to tracking both current and historical statistics so he can give his team members every advantage.
“Coach Hernandez, he’s really my mental coach.” Lowe said “He’s taught me so much through the past two years. I came in, and I was a funny little goofball. I didn’t know what I really wanted to do, I just knew that sports were my thing and that I loved swimming. I’ve learned so much from him, and he’s a really good mentor to me. He’s really helped me build as a person.”
For Hernandez, the hours he puts in as a coach may be long, but he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“If you love the sport, it grows on you,” he said. “They train numerous hours a day, week after week; they give up a lot of free time to be at training. But they’re champions. They get to carry that endurance – their training – they get to carry themselves in the future, and you can’t take that away from them. So by them doing all this training, their whole life is changed. They just become a stronger individual for everything they do.”
For now, Lowe swims his laps, one after the other – tracking his times, logging his meals, and focusing on the next meet, the next competition, the next time he has to beat to keep outworking himself in this endurance race he’s started. He’s not sure yet where it all leads, but he doesn’t have time to waste overthinking it.
“What you sacrifice now,” Lowe said, “you give that up for what you want to do in the future.”