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Jackson swimmer Ava Walters verbally commits to Little Rock

Jackson swimming and diving junior Ava Walters announced her verbal commitment to Division-I Little Rock (Arkansas) on June 4. Submitted photo

Following three seasons of being one of the most dominate swimmers Jackson has seen in recent memory, junior Ava Walters announced that she will continue her career collegiately at the Division-I level.

Walters, who luckily for the Indians still has one year of high school swimming left, verbally committed to Little Rock (Arkansas) of the Missouri Valley Conference earlier this month.

“[Committing to Little Rock] means a lot because I’ve been swimming for 10 years, so I’ve been building up to this moment,” Walters said. “I’ve always dreamed of swimming in college.”

Prior to her commitment, Ava went on an official visit to Little Rock and it was the only school she ended up touring. Not only did Ava get an exclusive look at the campus and its facilities, but she also met and roomed with potential future teammates.

“On my official visit, I stayed with the team for two nights, and the girls made me feel at home,” Walters said. “We went bowling and did a ton of different activities. I stayed with the girls in the dorms.

“I love the team because it’s an all-girls team, so I feel like I can just relate to them more. They’re all just there for each other the whole time — it’ll be really cool. The coach is absolutely amazing, too.”

The Trojans were smart to recruit a talent of Walters’ caliber as she’s not only a former SEMO Conference MVP — she’s been an all-state medalist and qualified in multiple events each year of high school so far.

Walters is a three-time all-state recipient in the 100-yard backstroke and took sixth overall in the event in the Class 2 State Meet back in February. She also competed in the 200-yard individual medley and as a member of two relay teams” the 200-yard medley and 400-yard freestyle.

Ava holds the school record in the 100 backstroke as she actually broke it back when she was a freshman. She now holds a personal-record time of 58.11, which she set at state this year.

“[Breaking a record early in my career] meant a lot because it made me want to work harder just to break my own record again,” Walters said. “… I practice almost every day and weekends. I usually have to wake up pretty early in the summers and everything — it’s a lot of work.”

Walters also became a three-time conference champion in the 100 this winter, where she also broke her own SEMO record of 58.97 with a time of 58.91. She also won an individual conference title in the 200 medley at two minutes, 14.69 seconds this year.

“There’s a lot of competition around here that just helps me go further in this sport,” Ava said. “It pushes me to be my best self.”

Walters was influenced by her older brother Brayden Walters to become a swimmer, and he will actually serve as Ava’s head coach at Jackson this winter. He had previously been on staff as an assistant.

Coach Walters, who is four years older than Ava, used to swim competitively for Jackson. Even though he doesn’t swim competitively anymore, Walters said her brother still swims regularly and helps her while keeping a coach’s mindset instead of that of an older sibling.

“Sometimes we get competitive but not too much,” Walters laughed. “He’s a good coach. It’ll be good and him being my coach means a lot because I think he can push me to my best self and get me to where I want to be.

“I’m pretty excited, and I know he’s really excited about it, so I’m excited for him to be able to step into this position.”

In her final year as an Indian this upcoming winter, Walters will have the chance of becoming a four-time all-state and four-time conference champion in the 100 backstroke.

Last year’s Class 2 State Champion in the event Isabelle Ackley graduated this spring and will continue her swimming career at D-I Florida Gulf Coast. Ava finished 4.33 seconds behind Ackley as six other all-state medalists in the 100 backstroke will also return for next season.

“I would like to just make it to state in the 100 backstroke again, and I want to place even higher than I did last year,” Walters noted. “That’s my main goal.”

Whatever happens next season, current and future Jackson swimmers will know her name whenever they look at the record board or see one of her many individual accomplishments.

“I just want [fellow Jackson swimmers] to know it’s a lot of hard work, but they can do it as long as they put their mind to what they want to do,” Walters said.

Nick McNeal covers high school sports, college sports and community events for The Cash-Book Journal. He graduated from Southeast Missouri State University with a degree in multimedia journalism and has lived in Cape Girardeau County for the past five years. He can be reached at cbjsports@socket. net.

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