When Wauwatosa Hurricanes coach Heidi Hegwood talks about star junior swimmer Danny Larson, it is important to remember that he doesn't walk ON water, he swims IN it.
But with the rest of this season and his senior year before him, Larson could have the title 'best ever' added to his accomplishments.
When Christiane Toye, the athletics and activities administrative assistant, walked me into the pool area last week, she pointed out the records board on the wall by the pool.
'It's starting to be called the Danny Larson board,' she said, half-kidding.
Larson holds around 10 records for the Hurricanes and Tosa West, before the team was combined with Tosa East, and that includes two relay records.
'Coming in as a freshman looking at the board, I took a picture of it,' Larson recalled. 'I'm very goal-oriented. I have my goals up on the door, and every day I see those before I leave, and I have those on my mind when I'm swimming at practice, constantly working for those. Records are made to be broken, and I would like to leave the team with as many as I can.'
Larson comes from a family of swimmers as Anna is currently at UW-Madison, and Julia, a freshman, was on the girls team in the fall. In fact, Larson's first exposure to swimming came because of Anna.
'I started with club swim when I was 7-8 years old because of my older sister (Anna),' he said. 'When I started it, I wasn't very good, but she was. Then we joined Waukesha Express (swim club), and that's where I excelled and started taking off.'
Larson played several sports growing up, but he quickly focused on swimming as his sport of choice.
'I liked the teammates, the camaraderie,' he said. 'It took a lot of dedication. I found in other sports that wasn't their priority. In swimming, you surround yourself with people who are dedicated and passionate. You don't always see that in other sports.
'The atmosphere of the teammates you surround yourself with can drastically change your performance in practice and, therefore, how you swim. It's a huge aspect, both mentally and physically. By yourself, it's near impossible. You get to know the guys really well because you spend time together. You work for common goals and that brings everyone together — to achieve something that we all set out to achieve. It brings everyone super close together.'
Hegwood first heard of Larson when he was in seventh grade, thanks to her own swimmers.
'Jack Lutz, Jake Lutz and Eddie Galindo said, 'Just wait until this seventh-grader gets up here,'' Hegwood said. 'Then I saw his times as an eighth-grader, and we couldn't wait to have him on the team. Two years ago, when I took over the girls team, I met Anna, and that is when I was formally introduced to Danny.'
Larson discussed swimming in individual events but also said working with his teammates on relays was also important.
'The individuality is definitely an appealing proponent,' he said. 'You have to hold yourself accountable because when you're in there, a lot of times it comes down to you. It comes down to willpower, on how much work you put in. I do like the fact that how much work I put in will directly affect the outcome of that season.'
Senior Brandon Toye, junior Cal Hartt and sophomores Caleb Vollmers and Nick Thuli make up Larson's relay buddies.
'I think how your relay does, is just as big if not more of a measure how successful you are as an athlete,' Larson said. 'Being a good teammate is just as important as being successful as an individual. Whether it's club or more so high school, I really get along (with the guys on the relay). I like to push them as well as well as I like them to push me.
'The fact that you know who you're with, everyone gets along and is swimming better. I definitely use relays as an inspiration if you want to hold each other up and hold each other accountable for doing well. When you have other people on the line, you definitely want to do it for them and be more successful.'
Larson is a good teammate out of the pool as well. Hegwood's captains are Toye, Avery Weishoff, Evan Vetrano and Paul Gagne, all seniors. But Larson is not short on leadership skills.
'It's been amazing even as a freshman when he got his feet wet with the high school team, he still has leadership qualities,' Hegwood said. 'It's wonderful to see the team listen to him, follow him, look to him. As a peer, he has a way to get into their minds to motivate them for practice. I can talk about it, but I can't get them to buy into it as he can because he's one of them.'
With records falling like trees at a lumberjack contest, what can Larson do to get better?
'The technical aspect,' said Larson, who stands 6 feet, 1 inch and is 195 pounds. 'I was very much a person who would be at practice, and I just wanted to swim. I would go as hard as I could, as fast as I could. A lot of times I wasn't thinking about the big picture growing up. If I get so strong, I can go super fast, which is only true to a certain extent. You reach a point as a kid where you stop growing. I grew very early. So when I was a kid, I was bigger than everyone else, which was super nice. But then I stopped growing, and then you stop dropping times so dramatically. And you have to start looking for other ways to drop time than continually to get taller and continuing to get stronger. That's when I started looking for other ways to do that.
'You've got to be able to do things very technically well. So I would say looking forward, I have a couple years left in high school and hopefully in college, I have to refine technique so I can become a more efficient swimmer.'
Danny Larson File
Freshman — 200 freestyle (2nd), 100 freestyle (5th); Sophomore — 200 freestyle (2nd), 100 freestyle (4th)
Hurricane team records
200 freestyle (1:41.50), 200 IM (1:58.67), 50 freestyle (22.22), 100 butterfly (53.43, 2016), 100 freestyle (46.88), 500 freestyle (4:53.51)
Tosa West records
200 freestyle (1:43.40, Bob Sells, 1974, now 1:41.50), 200 IM (2:01.2, Jeff Marohl, 1975, now 1:58.67)
200 medley (Galindo, Siverling, Falk, Larson) 1:39.90, 200 freestyle relay (Galindo, Falk, Lutz, Larson) 1:26.14, 400 freestyle relay (Falk, Siverling, Lutz, Larson) 3:14.41
He also has multiple club accomplishments.