Ben Patton woke up and swam a three-hour practice Saturday morning.
Soon after his workout, he was back in the pool again. Patton raced only twice at the OneMa1ze Invitational. He won each race by an average of 13 seconds.
Patton is the No. 1 swimmer in Kansas, according to the latest College Swimming rankings. He splits his time in the pool between wearing a Trinity Academy cap and competing for the Wichita Swim Club at Olympic development meets.
He can only compete in 10 high school events by rule, and if he wants to compete in a club race, he has to file paperwork through the Kansas State High School Activities Association and have it approved.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Wichita Eagle
Patton is a four-time state champion with a pair of titles coming in the 200-yard individual medley, the total test of a complete swimmer, which includes butterfly, back, breast and freestyle strokes.
He is committed to swim at Missouri, one of the top programs in the nation, after his graduation. And from Dec. 13-16, he would have broken six Kansas Class 5A records, but because he did it at the King Marlin Pro Am in Lewisville, Texas, they don’t count.
He will have to do it again Feb. 16 at the Capitol Federal Natatorium in Topeka at the state meet, which shouldn’t be a problem.
By KSHSAA rule, swimmers can only compete in two relays and two individual races at the state meet. At the pro am, Patton swam 11 individual events and three relays.
“It was really exhausting, and it actually made me sick afterward,” he said. “It was complete exhaustion. Sometimes it gives me bronchitis because of all the chlorine. With prelims and all, I swam 18 times in three days.”
Although Patton is a household name in the Kansas swimming community, he has quietly cruised through his high school career because of the niche nature of the sport. He said he prefers it that way.
“I feel like you can get in your own head if people are always cheering you on,” he said. “Swimming is just the right amount of support. There are a lot of things I love about this sport. The main thing is you can really see yourself improve. It’s a lot easier in swimming where you just look at the board instead of basketball.”
Patton is one of four swimmers on the Trinity Academy team. Saturday, he was the only one in a Knights cap as two were sick and the fourth was at a debate competition.
Glen Patton, Trinity coach and Ben’s dad, said when he brings his group to meets similar to the OneMa1ze Invitational, coaches of larger schools admire their fight.
“We say, ‘We’re small but mighty,’ ” Glen said.
Glen wasn’t much a competitive swimmer. Ben grew up at a house with a pool and said he had to learn to swim at 3. He started taking it more seriously and swimming competitively at 12.
Now as a senior, thanks in large part to the Wichita Swim Club and coach Alison Pick, Patton doesn’t need much guidance.
“I look at myself as more of a trainer and cheerleader,” Glen said. “I don’t claim to know a lot about swimming. I know quite a bit but not a whole lot. So with my son on the team, it’s always fun to be on the deck and hear the other coaches and swimmers talk. It’s been fun to be able to be there with Ben.”
Although Patton could spend all of his time at Olympic development meets away from the traditional high school races, he said swimming for Trinity is important to him.
The Knights finished ninth out of nine teams Saturday because Patton went solo, but as soon as he got out of the pool, he wasn’t alone. He is good friends with swimmers at Independent, Andover and other Wichita-area schools.
He has grown into the community and though few can keep up with him, high school swim has become a small family, he said.
“It makes me love the sport even more,” he said. “I love being able to spend time with all of these guys and cheer them on.”