The district championship psych sheets did a fairly inadequate job of who was going to turn out to be the breakout star of this year’s girls swimming postseason.
Holy Redeemer freshman Margaret Walting did not head the charts any of the four events she was registered. But after inexplicably qualifying four times, she left the PIAA state championships with three medals around her neck.
“Honestly, it’s just a humbling experience,” Walting said. “I shocked myself more than anybody. I’m still trying to wrap my head around it even though it was a month ago.
For her breakout performance, Walting is the Times Leader Girls Swimmer of the Year.
Walting, who resides in Nanticoke, notched fourth place in the 50 free at states. She added medals in the 200 medley and 200 free relays.
“It’s hard to put into words,” Holy Redeemer coach Jack Port said. “It was a surreal performance. I had feeling she would do better time-wise than she did at districts. It’s a testament to her hard work and competitiveness.”
Walting came out of the second heat to touch the wall in 24.12 seconds for fourth in the 50 free. She leapfrogged 10 spots from her No. 14 seed. A timing malfunction initially had her with a time that was a second faster and would have given her a silver medal.
“When I saw my time for real, well, I would have been over the moon with a 23 (seconds),” Walting said. “But I was still satisfied with my 24. It was really exciting.”
Both her 200 free and 200 medley relays finished in eighth place at states. Along with Kayla Kruk, Emily Easton and Emily Blaum, her 200 free relay registered a 1:39.34. Walting and Blaum teamed up with McKenna Zeller and Corinne Smith to drop 1.4 seconds for a 1:49.89 in the medley relay.
She swam a 50 free split of 24.25 seconds that was the fastest first leg in the 200 free relay.
“Well the biggest factor was how close of a bond they have as a team,” Port said. “They put the heart and soul into it and it showed at states. Her fastest 50 free split was in the relay that goes to show her dedication to the team.”
She fell short of a fourth state medal in the 100 breast. Walting placed 11th place with a 1:06.26 that was a tenth of a second quicker than her PR. According to Port, she dropped seven seconds on her breaststroke throughout the course of the year.
At districts, Walting collected silver medals in each of her four events. She finished behind Dallas’ Annalise Cheshire in the 50 free and Scranton Prep’s Audrey Campo in the 100 breast.
The Royals’ relays enjoyed outstanding drops in their second-place finishes at districts. Walting’s 24.47 split in the 200 free helped the Royals shave four seconds off their seed. In the 200 medley, Holy Redeemer came out of the No. 5 seed to punch their automatic ticket to states. In their two postseason, the Royals’ 200 medley relay dropped more than six seconds.
“My favorite part of the season was when both district relays qualified for states,” Walting said. “It was the first time I ever cried happy tears at a swim meet. We were all crying. It was fantastic. We were blown away.”
The daughter of Emily and Dan Walting, she competes on Holy Redeemer’s track team in the hurdles.
Next season, she intends on working on her breaststroke and relays. She said, “we just want to fine-tune everything.”