Michael Eaton has had a big year of swimming.
The St. Clairsville junior earned all-Ohio in the 100 yard breaststroke by virtue of a fifth-place finish during the high school season.
Since then, outside of a few pole vault practices, Eaton has continued to get it done in the water.
Last weekend, Eaton earned the right to call himself an all-American in his specialty during the YMCA Short Course National Championship meet in Greensboro, N.C.
"It's crazy to just think about being all-American," Eaton said. "I was expecting pretty big things going into this short course season, but in reality, I knew there were kids who were better at short course than I was."
To earn the right to compete at the national meet, it's based on meeting a time standard. According to Eaton, the time can be achieved at a YMCA event, a high school event or USA swimming.
"There were 160-some kids in the event all of whom had swam a great time," Eaton said. "It was just a huge field, so to make it was exciting."
Eaton took part in the national meet in 2012 and finished 64th overall, a long way from all-American accoloades.
"I was hoping to improve my finish," Eaton said.
The personable Red Devil standout arrived in North Carolina seeded 20th overall, but only the top 16 earned all-Americans though 24 made the finals.
Swimming in different heats, Eaton and a competitor from Sarasota, Fl. both posted times of 57.71, which was tied for 16th and the right to be in the 'B' final, which would assure the swimmer of all-American.
To break the deadlock, the two had a swim-off.
As he's done time and time again, Eaton rose to the occassion and posted yet another career best with a 57.46 effort and won the swim-off by a tenth of a second, earning Eaton the final spot in the 'B' final.
"I went into the B final with absolutely nothing to lose because it's like the state meet where you can't do any worse, regardless of your time, than 16th or better than ninth," Eaton said. "The kid I beat in the swim-off actually swam a faster time than me in the final, but he still got 17th."
There, he swam a 57.59, which was good enough for 14th place overall. All told, Eaton swam three times better than his previous personal best that he had set during the prep season.
"All of the times at that level are just so fast," Eaton said. "It was a really tight race. I think it was half a second that separated the entire field."
On top of earning all-American, Eaton also beat his nemesises from Dover, who he had gone head-to-head with throughout the postseason.
"I was disappointed a little bit with fifth, but I definitely got some redemption," Eaton smiled.
Eaton, who won the Porterfield Invitational pole vault title with a personal best clearance of 13-3 on Friday night, is focusing strictly on track and field for the next few weeks.
"It's a long stretch from the time that I need to start preparing for sectional, through state meet and then into about another month of competitive swimming," Eaton said. "It was tough, especially with track starting."
He'll resume his swimming workouts in late May and start preparations for the YMCA Long Course events and the national meet in that will be held in August in Atlanta at the Georgia Tech Aquatic Center, which hosted the 1996 Olympic Games. Then, before he knows it, it'll be his senior season with the Red Devils.
Staskey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org