Last winter, Walker Davis stormed onto the Central Virginia high school swimming scene with two all-state performances at the Virginia High School League Class 5 state meet.
The Albemarle junior continued that meteoric rise last week as he led the Patriots’ boys swim team to a victory at the Ben Hair Memorial Swim Meet at the University of Virginia Aquatic and Fitness Center.
Davis won two individual events and was a member of a pair of top relay teams as Albemarle (368) edged rival Western Albemarle (358) for the team title.
“One of the major things that helped me be successful at Ben Hair was the Albemarle team,” Davis said. “Being able to look to the end of my lane and see all of my friends there supporting me helps motivate me to do the best times.”
The junior rose to the occasion last week with some pretty impressive times. Davis won the 50-yard freestyle with a time of 20.57 seconds. He followed that up with a victory in the 100-yard freestyle (46.23), finishing more than two seconds faster than his nearest competitor.
Davis’ night didn’t end there.
He swam the opening leg of the Patriots’ 200 medley relay team that won with a time of 1:35.49. In the 400 freestyle relay, Davis swam the anchor leg as his team won by nearly two seconds with a time of 3:15.74.
Winning at the Ben Hair meet was extra special for Davis, who has volunteered at the Ben Hair Foundation the past two summers teaching kids how to swim. Davis credited his competitors for helping him elevate his game.
“I knew many of the top swimmers at the meet, so the friendly vibes of racing your friends takes some of the pressure off the high stress of a close competition,” he said. “Ben Hair places very high in my past meets. It always helps me remember that I am on track with where I want to be by the end of the season.”
Dominance in the pool is nothing new for Davis, who started swimming around the age of 5 and never looked back.
“I first got into swimming very early on with the Jefferson Swim League,” Davis said. “I have competed 10 or 11 years at this point with Farmington Country Club. I swam for the Frogs for a number of years before venturing into year-round swimming. That was when I decided that swimming would be my sport.”
The junior joined the Virginia Gators, a developmental swim team in Charlottesville, at the age of 10 and credits that exposure for preparing him for big meets.
“I’ve found that in order to continue to improve as you get older, you need to make sure you still believe in your own ability,” Davis said. “The moment that you go into a practice thinking that you aren’t good is when you stop improving and stop being competitive.”
It was at this early age where Davis also became a student of the sport.
“When I was younger, I always looked up to older kids at meets, even if they were on my team, “ Davis said. “Watching seniors win races in times I could barely comprehend was an excellent motivator for me, as it showed what I could do in the future.”
Like most swimmers, Davis admits he is glued to his television every four years for the Olympics to watch the top performers compete on the sport’s highest stage.
Locally, Davis admits he looks up to Western Albemarle’s Noah Hargrove, who won two individual state titles last year and guided the Warriors to another VHSL Class 3 state championship.
“Noah always stuck out to me as he was one year older and much faster than I was,” Davis said.
The Albemarle standout admits that swimming is a mental sport.
“When I am preparing for a race, I try to stay as relaxed as possible, while also focusing on what I am going to do,” Davis said. “It helps me to have fewer distractions leading right up to the race, so I usually listen to music or just stretch until it’s time to go.”
Once the horn sounds, Davis said it’s pure adrenaline.
“When the start goes off, everything goes into swimming as fast as possible,” he said. “With short events like the 50s and 100s, there is no saving up for the end. It’s just go-go-go.”
Davis loves the competition.
“Occasionally, it gets stressful, as everyone expects me to win, but for the most part, it is enjoyable,” Davis said. “I have had a few times in the past where people have thanked me for pushing them to get a cut for a meet they want, and that makes me happy.”
Out of the pool, Davis uses that sharp focus in all aspects of his life.
“I am very interested in computer science, as well as math and sciences,” he said. “My favorite subjects tend to follow suit. I spent a lot of time tinkering around on computers, making fun programs and what not.”
Another one of his passions is that of a potential Lego Master, including building a 1:16 scale model of a Bugatti Chiron.
“I have been messing around with Legos and other building things for as long as I can remember,” Davis said. “I currently have a floor-to-ceiling shelf dedicated to them. I don’t really have any hidden talents, but I can put together a Lego set faster than anyone I know.”
Davis’ interest in Lego has led him to join the robotics team at Albemarle called Vertigo.
The junior also is an avid skier and visits Wintergreen Resort with a group of friends a few times a year. Later this year, he’s scheduled to visit Vermont to try out the slopes with his uncle.
Davis hopes to continue his career his swimming career at the next level.
“I have spoken to a number of ACC schools, many of which have shown varying levels of interest,” he said. “In college, I plan on majoring in computer science or data science and would like a profession that continues down that path.”
As for the rest of the season, Davis has high hopes.
“So far, my season has gone incredibly well,” he said. “I have already had to readjust my end of the year goals once to compensate for my recent drops in the 100 backstroke and 50 freestyle. I plan to continue improving this year until I can extremely competitive on a higher plane.”