High School Sports

Chapin's Layne keeps his options open in the pool

Senior's versatility helps his team in meets, but soon he will have to choose what to swim at state event

By AKILAH IMANI NELSON

In the pool, Walker Layne can do whatever he wants.

The Chapin senior is a two-time state champion in the 100-yard backstroke, winning in 2007 and '08. But at the Blue Devil Invitational on Sunday, Layne decided to try something new.

So he dived into the pool at Sol E. Blatt Natatorium for the 100 butterfly. Less than a minute later, he emerged the winner.

Coach Peggy Mueller shook her head and laughed.

"He wanted to see what he could do, so he just went out there and won it," she said.

This is nothing new for Layne, the Eagles' captain, who aims to master as many events as he can.

"It's OK to specialize," he said, "but once you're really good at one thing, it's good to see what else you can do - that makes you even more valuable."

In branching out, Layne hoped to raise his stock with college programs. In the process, he has gained a new view of himself.

"I'm starting to think of myself just as a sprinter," Layne said. "I am really strong at the backstroke, but any race that is 100 yards, I can be successful, I think."

Mueller is counting on that.

"He can swim anything," she said. "When we're at invitational meets, I let him swim whatever he wants, but in dual meets, I put him where we need him."

Mueller entered him in the 200-meter individual medley in a dual meet against Irmo, and he won. She has had him swim the 500 freestyle and the 100 breaststroke when necessary.

Layne has been humble about his success, Mueller said.

"He'll do whatever I ask; even if he doesn't like the event, he'll swim it and try his best," she said.

Layne's versatility should go a long way in helping the Eagles improve on their ninth-place finish at last year's state meet.On Sunday, Layne's winning time of 52.13 seconds in the 100 butterfly qualified him for the state finals. In fact, it is more than a second faster than last year's winning time of 53.15. He also has qualified for state in the 200 IM, the 500 freestyle and the 100 backstroke. To qualify for the 100 freestyle, he needs to swim 55.30 or better in the Eagles' Monday meet against White Knoll.

"He's pretty much qualified for everything, and he's a threat in everything he does," Mueller said.

But, according to S.C. High School League rules, he only can swim two individual races at the state meet.

Now, he must decide which ones.

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