When JD Middleton finished a race in high school and looked to the deck of the swimming pool, he just saw his mom.
He didn’t have any teammates at Shenandoah High School in Middletown, Indiana, and his mom, Beth Middleton, was his coach.
“It was just me, which was kind of hard,” JD said. “At times it was nice to have her there, on the pool deck. But it worked out really well, because we had a close relationship.”
Middleton is now a senior specializing in the distance-freestyle events for Ball State men’s swimming and diving. Isaac Walling, a junior swimmer, said Middleton has become the consummate teammate — which is a good thing considering he now has 22 teammates listed on the roster.
“If I had anybody else to swim with, I do not know what I would do,” Walling said. “But having JD always swimming against me is someone I know that is going to do consistently well.”
Middleton began swimming at the New Castle Swim Club when he was in elementary school. His first dip in the pool was when he attended a fundraiser for his cousin’s team.
“As I have grown older, it has been a lot more serious and the training has gotten more intense,” JD said. “But I still have that love for the competition that is what really keeps me going.”
At the last meet against IUPUI and Xavier on Jan. 7, Middleton and Walling faced each other in the 500-yard freestyle. Walling said he saw that competitive fire on full display.
“I know he and I have completely different strategies on our swims,” Walling said. “Honestly, tonight I saw him holding up with me in the 500. I was just thinking to myself, ‘Oh, he is going to be able to bring it home. He’s going to take off on me and I know it’s going to happen.’”
To Beth, the most memorable meet was when Middleton swam against Centerville High School. It wasn’t his finish she remembers, either. Instead, she remembers what happened when his opponents found out he was competing alone.
“After the meet was over, JD went up to the stands,” she said. “There were five to six swimmers that found him and went up to him. They walked up the bleachers and shook his hands, and they said, ‘You know, we just want to let you know we really respect what you are doing. There is no way we would ever do what you are doing.’ I got teary-eyed, because I thought that was amazing.”