ArticlesJun 01 2011
- Written by Sharon Robb
High School: Coral Springs
Colleges: Valencia Community College/University of Central Florida
Ryan Wilkerson has been swimming for most of his life.
Like most youngsters, his parents encouraged him to learn when he was five since the family had a pool in the backyard. His parents are both Florida Gold Coast swimming officials, his mom swims masters and his younger sister is a competitive swimmer.
"They put me through the Swim America program and I just continued and kept at it," Wilkerson said.
"I kept at it because I knew I was okay in it. When I was 8 I was moved to the White Group and only a couple of other 8-year-olds were moved up so that made me pretty happy."
Wilkerson improved every year in age group swimming. He swam the 100 and 200 breaststroke and 100 freestyle. He swam all four years of high school.
As a sophomore, he won a region title in the 100 breaststroke in 1:02.56, one of the highlights of his high school career.
"When I started high school swimming I wanted to do everything. I wanted to go to college for swimming. After my sophomore year it went downhill. I pulled my right lat in water polo and I was out of pool and couldn't train competitively.
"I wanted to get back to where I was my sophomore year. After that I didn't make states but I got in the time range that I was in."
Wilkerson was an all-around athlete, playing baseball until he was 13. He pitched for seven years and was named to the 11-12 All-Star baseball team. He played soccer for two years.
He also played water polo throughout high school and hopes to play club in college. He stopped swimming in January to devote full-time to water polo.
Wilkerson was a member of a district champion water polo team that knocked off Douglas and lost to Gulliver Prep at the state meet. During the season he scored six goals against Northeast in the district semifinals.
"I love water polo, I could play 24/7," Wilkerson said. "It's so much fun. I had an arm from pitching. I played wing because I was one of the faster kids on the team."
It was swimming that helped Wilkerson with his life's skills.
"It helped me schedule my time," Wilkerson said. "It helped me to know when it was time to get serious and get work done.
"There were days back then when I was swimming I wished I didn't have swim practice especially Friday nights when most of my friends went to our football games. I missed half the Coral Springs-Douglas game because swim practice didn't end until 7:30. But I am glad I swam. It kept me in shape.
"Now I am almost overwhelmed with the free time I have. We used to come home from school, practice for three hours, eat dinner and do homework and do it all over again the next day."
Wilkerson enjoyed his days at the Coral Springs Aquatic Complex. "It was neat when we had the Olympics and everyone was training for it. It was kind of cool jumping in the pool right after them."
Wilkerson said he "is definitely happy to be out of high school" and looking forward to going to college. He plans to live off-campus with two childhood friends and already has a job lined up.
"I am looking forward to it," Wilkerson said.