Eaton preparing for final season at OSU
COLUMBUS — Quite simply, Michael Eaton and swimming have become synonmous.
That happens when you participate in a sport for basically your entire life. Actually, Eaton first jumped in the water to take his first swimming lesson at the J.B. Chambers YMCA in Elm Grove at 4 years old.
He’s been making a big splash in the sport ever since. Unfortunately, the cliche says that all good things must come to an end and in a handful of months such will be the case for Eaton’s competitive swimming career.
“It’s hard to describe,” Eaton said of the emotions that he’s facing as his senior season at Ohio State University is set to begin this coming weekend. “(My swim career) winding down is a scary thought, but I’ve never been one to not live in the moment. All I can do is continue to look at what’s important right now and not spend too much time looking into the past or toward the future. I have three or four months left in my career and I plan to make the most of it.”
The St. Clairsville graduate, who is closing in on a degree in logistics, doesn’t plan to just let this season go by without continuing to build on what he’s been able to accomplish since arriving at OSU in the fall of 2014.
“I have to make the most of the last few remaining months of swimming that I have,” Eaton continued. “The entire (swimming) experience, from when I was a kid, through high school, to here at Ohio State has been nothing short of a blessing and nothing shy of an amazing experience.”
Eaton, who has been battling through a minor injury suffered in practice, will be one of the Buckeyes top breaststrokers again this season. His personal-best time of 53.52 in the 100 breaststroke, which he posted last winter, was the second fastest on the squad all season. His 1:58.32 in the 200 breast was the third best time posted by a Buckeye all season.
Significant time drops have been part of the ‘process’ for Eaton, basically ever since he started swimming. He was actually once encouraged by a youth coach to take up the fly or freestyle because he simply wouldn’t be able to do the breast.
“I remember my coach would take my legs and kick them into a frog motion because my legs couldn’t do it on their own,” Eaton laughed. “I made expoential improvement from the time I started to being one of the best in my age groups, nationally, when I was 10.”
The time drops continued through high school, which eventually culminated in a state runnerup finish in 2014, which remains the highest place ever posted by an OVAC swimmer in the Ohio State Swimming Championships.
“Each time, I’ve been able to find something to improve on,” Eaton said. “I’ve always kept the thought, ‘how much faster can I get?’ in the back of my head. What do I have to do to improve? I have taken the leap, committed to the process and part of that was coming to Ohio State.”
Eaton had plenty of opportunities to swim at the Division II level collegiately. But, shortly after finishing his race in the state final, Eaton heard from now retired Buckeye head coach Bill Wadley.
“I was able to come to Ohio State, find the coaching and skills I had been missing to take me to the next level,” Eaton confessed. “It’s just been an amazing experience.”
Eaton, who qualified for the 2016 Olympic Trials in Omaha, was selected for the Buckeyes’ Big Ten Championship team last season where he scored by virtue of qualifying to the ‘B’ Final. His sights are now set on the ‘A’ Final, an all-Big Ten finish and hopefully a berth in the NCAA Championship meet. On top of those, Eaton admitted he’d love to crack the all-time top five listing in Buckeyes’ history, which he believes will be attainable should he accomplish his other goals and vice versa.
“I have some lofty goals set, but it’s all about following the process,” Eaton said. “I came to Ohio State with not all that impressive of a resume as compared to some of the other guys here. But, I’ve been able to commit to the process and work my way up.
“If I am able to work my way onto that list of elite (swimmers) to end my career, I’d be pretty content.”
The Buckeyes had their annual intrasquad/alumni meet few weekends ago and Eaton swam the fastest time he’s ever posted in that event.
“It’s a good place to start,” Eaton said. “I feel ahead of where I was at this time last year. My stroke is really dialed in and I am getting high-level training. I think some good things are in the making.”
Though he’s resigned to the fact that his career is ending in a handful of months, Eaton isn’t exactly sure — other than working for his father’s family business — what’s on the horizon for him.
“I am going to have to find some serious hobbies,” Eaton joked.