No injuries got in the way this time.
The Etowah senior was having a banner season a year ago, until he aggravated his knee playing racquetball with his father. It wasn’t deemed serious at the time, and he continued swimming, but when Blanton felt serious pain kicking off the wall in one of his races, he knew instantly that something was wrong.
Blanton wasn’t cleared to swim in the Class AAAAA state meet a year ago and his teammates missed him. This season, however, Blanton was healthy, and Etowah excelled with him in the water.
Blanton ended his career at Etowah with showings of fourth in the 200-yard individual medley and sixth in the 100 backstroke at the Class AAAAA state meet. He also helped Etowah’s 200 medley and 200 freestyle relay teams each finish 11th overall.
At the Cherokee County Invitational, Blanton swam for the same relay teams, which broke county meet records, and he also set new marks with his victories in the 200 IM and 100 breaststroke.
For his efforts, Blanton is the 2011-12 Cherokee County Boys Swimmer of the Year.
“I think that I swam really well this year,” Blanton said. “I trained hard on the things I needed to work on. I swam a lot of best times this season and was content with the way I swam this season.”
To take fourth in the 200 IM at the state meet, Blanton finished in 1 minute, 54.1 seconds — overcoming Parkview’s Devyn Hughes by only 0.85 seconds. Blanton finished the 100 backstroke in 52.40 and was 0.17 seconds behind the fifth-place finisher, Parkview’s Rory Martin.
“I swam a really good 200 IM for that time of the season,” Blanton said. “I wasn’t tapered for it, but I was happy with it. I was happy with the 100 back was well. It was a good benchmark of showing me where I needed to be in the next couple of weeks. I was really happy with way I swam.”
Blanton’s showing at state should help him catch attention from colleges. He’s currently gearing up for the long-course season with his club team, and he hopes to use that time to meet with potential college coaches. He said his three favorite places to swim would be Georgia Tech, Georgia and Alabama.
In getting ready for this season, Blanton devoted extra time in strengthening his underwater motions. In a race, he admitted to being slower while underwater after a turn, as he attempted to beat the swimmer in the next lane.
Blanton’s extra attention to certain weaknesses paid off for him at county. He won the 200 IM by more than 5 seconds while setting a record time of 1:55.37, and broke the 1-minute mark in the 100 breaststroke with a time of 59.66.