Dayton Does It All for Air Force Swimming
Feb. 12, 2002
By Kurt Eilmes
If John Dayton fulfills his dream of becoming a pilot, don't be surprised if he not only flies the plane but repairs the engine, serves beverages and snacks to the passengers and makes all the pre-flight announcements.
Not because Dayton likes to steal the spotlight but he is an extremely versatile individual. For now, the multitalented Dayton is reaching new heights for the Air Force men's swim team which is headed to the Mountain West Conference meet with solid hopes of improving on two consecutive third place finishes.
Only a junior, Dayton ranks in the top 10 in AFA history in four different individual events - the 50-yard freestyle (fourth), the 200 free (eighth), the 100 breaststroke (second) and the 200 breaststroke (third). He is also a member of the school record holders in the 200 medley relay and the 400 freestyle relay.
With all of the achievements that came after countless hours in the pool, this cadet isn't a slouch in the classroom either. Last season he made academic all-American honorable mention and MWC academic all-conference.
Despite his all-around success, the Hendersonville, Tenn. native admits there is one stroke at which he does not excel.
"The only thing I can't do is the backstroke," he said. "I've never been very good at it." But that hasn't dampened the appreciation his coach, Rob Clayton, has for Dayton. Especially when deciding who is going to swim what event.
"It's great because we move him all over the place and we always use him to load up our relays," he said. "He is our top sprinter, so usually we place him against our opponent's best swimmer."
Facing the league's top swimmers hasn't kept Dayton from clocking the fastest team times in numerous events. And he has a reason why.
"It is general improvement across the board - I work hard to get better and faster," he said and then added jokingly. "And I think I have some natural ability as a swimmer."
Outside of physical talent, Dayton also believes he has a mental edge against his competitors. "My mentality is keeping a positive attitude and being the best you can be," he said. "Your attitude should convey that you can do it." Clayton agrees.
"He is very strong mentally," he said. "He knows when to turn it on and he has an excellent understanding of himself and what he needs to do to be successful." With an aggressive racing style that Clayton describes as "blasting out way ahead at the start and holding everyone off to the finish," Dayton is very close to reaching his personal quest that was begun nearly a year ago.
It was at last season's MWC championships that Dayton said he took flight as a swimmer. At the meet he hit NCAA "B" qualifying times, just missing the cut to be invited to the NCAA championship, in the 50 free and the 100 backstroke - the same event Dayton insists he isn't good at.
"Making the National "B" time was a major breakthrough for me," he said. "Even though it was only a single hurdle, it should allow me to do more and hopefully this year at the conference meet I'll go over another hurdle."
Clayton admitted if Dayton clears that hurdle, he will certainly rank among the best swimmers ever at the AFA.
"We had two guys make the 'A' cut last year and they swam the same events he does, so he's not quite there," he said. "But if he keeps making those phenomenal drops in his times he could be the best swimmer we've had here in a long time."