Different class no problem for Alton

Swimmers in Georgia's four smallest classifications learned this year what swimmers in Class AAAAA could have told them after last year - Abigail Alton is just a faster swimmer.

As a sophomore, Alton claimed her first state title winning the 100 freestyle in AAAAA for Dacula. Then this past season, when the school dropped down to AAAA, the Gwinnett Daily Post's Swimmer of the Year claimed a second 100 free championship and added a 50 free title in the AAAA/AAA/AA/A division.

It is a good thing too, because Alton's classmates at Dacula expected no less.

"Since I had won last year, all my friends at school were asking me, 'Are you going to win this year?'" Alton said, adding that she did not answer the queries either way.

Her answer in the pool, however, was much more definitive. Alton's times in her two title races, 23.32 seconds in the 50 and 51.17 in the 100, were also fast enough to win state titles had she swam in AAAAA this season.

But Alton tries to put that in perspective.

"I couldn't have gone any slower in AAAAA (and won)," she said.

She didn't go any slower. And that is quite a feat for an athlete who describes swimming as "really relaxing" and admits she doesn't care about who she is racing.

"I don't think I am that competitive," Alton said. "I am more of a person who wants to swim my own race than one who says, 'Oh, I want to beat that girl.'"

No matter who "that girl" was, Alton beat her whether she knew her or not.

Because of Dacula's classification switch, this year's state meet not only set Alton against swimmers she had never raced, but also for the first time in high school, she was swimming against competition she didn't know from her years of swimming in Gwinnett County.

"It is just different people at AAAAA," Alton said. "The girls in the top heats (in AAAAA) are girls that I know. But I got to meet a bunch of new people in AAAA from teams across the state."

After she met them. She beat them. All of them, including Marist standout Kathleen Hersey, in the 100 free.

"I wanted to prove a point," Alton said. "Kathleen had beaten me before in that event."

That point made, Alton still has another year of high school swimming and most likely another set of state championships to go along with deciding where to swim in college.

The recruiting push begins this summer.

But aside from her college choice Alton will also have to decide which events to race in for more state titles. As a freshmen she competed in the 100 backstroke and 50 free, as a sophomore the 100 back and 100 free and this past year it was the pair of freestyle events.

"I have always swam different things," Alton said. "It will be interesting to see what I choose."

Most likely Alton will seek to defend her freestyle titles, if only because that is her signature style.

"This past year I did not really train backstroke," she said. "I developed into more of a freestyle swimmer."

And it most certainly won't be in breastroke.

"I am really bad at it," Alton said of her least favorite style.

"It is not that I don't like it, it is just that I am really bad at it."

Whichever events she picks and whatever school she chooses the only certainty is that Alton will continue to prove her mother wrong.

"I started swimming league at 9 ... my neighborhood had a swim team and all my friends were on it and I begged my mom when I was 8," Alton said. "She said, 'No, it will take too much time.' She also didn't think I would stick with it.

"I proved her wrong, I guess."