GVSU swimmer Ben Walling breaking records in sophomore campaign

GVL / Courtesy - Ben Walling

GVL / Courtesy - Ben Walling

Jake Carroll

Imagine a basketball phenom—the next Hakeem Olajuwon. Now imagine this player playing basketball in college as a sophomore, already one of the best players in the country. They decide to stay in college all four years instead of being a “one-and-done” player. Every year this player gets better and better, until eventually they are one of the best players in the country.

This is what Ben Walling is headed for, but not for the basketball team—for the Grand Valley State swim and dive team.

At the Calvin Invitational this season, Walling set a pair of school records in the 50-yard freestyle with a time of 20.21 and the 100-yard freestyle with a 43.90. Both times were good enough to hit NCAA Division II B cuts.

Walling, a sophomore, is a giant. He towers over every other member of the team, and that seems to help him in the pool also. For every one stroke Walling takes, it takes two for any of his competitors.

“I dive in the pool, and I’m already on the other side.” Walling said.

Not to discredit his achievements because of his height, because Walling is the definition of a “grind it out” type of competitor.

“He comes in every day and works hard,” said GVSU coach Andy Boyce. “I’ve got to think it’s going to pay off. He’s put on a tremendous amount of muscle and dropped a great amount of time.”

Walling has had a breakout season this year.

Improving on what he did last year would have been hard to do after qualifying for nationals in five different events, but Walling was able to do it.

Many swimmers cap themselves where Walling started, but he is improving on himself every semester.

Not only is Walling a fierce competitor, but also a terrific leader. Even though he is so young, he is considered one of the better leaders in the team, giving teammates a good example to model themselves after.

“He’s always trying to push people,” said teammate and women’s team captain Emily Gallagher. “He’s always at the end of someone’s lane cheering someone on and congratulating people after a good race.”

Boyce also spoke on what type of leader Walling is.

“As just a sophomore, he’s one of the guys that others really look up to,” Boyce said. “His work ethic and competitive spirit are things that really help the team out.”

Walling still has a way to go this season. There is still the GLIAC meet and the nationals meet, but his expectations looking ahead to the bigger meets of the season have never been higher.

Walling hopes that last season’s nationals experience will give him an edge during this season’s trip to Alabama for nationals.

“I didn’t swim like I wanted to last year,” Walling said. “It still sets a benchmark for what to expect in terms of atmosphere. I know what it’s all about now and I’m ready to go and see what I can get done.”

Walling will be back in the pool Saturday, Jan. 21 when the Lakers take on Indianapolis.