Ryan Langdon: switching up the strokes

Caroline Sisson

Jr. Ryan Langdon is exhausted. Physically and mentally exhausted. But when his coach says, “Let’s go again,” he nods and pushes off the wall. Swimming is an incredibly demanding sport, but Langdon piles on even more with private lessons and extra hours in the weight room to make himself better.

  Langdon is a key member of the West Ottawa boy’s swim and dive team, but he hasn’t always been such an asset. His freshman year, Langdon entered the high school program with less than subpar strokes. Despite his initial speed, many of his teammates and coaches doubted that he would ever really get faster due to his unpolished and inefficient strokes. However, Langdon has turned his swimming career around by working tirelessly on correcting his strokes.

  This season, for the first time, Langdon achieved a Division One state cut in season – last year he made the meet but in a last chance effort at the OK Red conference meet.

  In order to take his swimming to the next level, Langdon began to work with the assistant coach at WO on his stroke technique and lift with a trainer outside of the swimming program: “Since my freshman year, I have changed my nutrition and diet so I can stay healthy through the season. In addition, outside of swimming, I have lifted [weights] consistently to get stronger,” Langdon said. All of this added training has already paid off for Langdon. This year he qualified for the Division One state meet in the 100 butterfly in season: a large jump from not making the meet at all his freshman year.

  Swimming is a very technical sport; in order to be the best, your strokes have to be the best. Many swimmers are unwilling to change their strokes when they get to a point in their swimming careers because they believe they are too far along and whatever they are doing is working. Langdon, on the other hand, had the nerve to completely change some of his strokes and his training regimen in order to be as successful as he can be. “Ryan has worked incredibly hard in the offseason to get better,” Coach Steve Bowyer said. “I am really impressed with his work ethic and willingness to put time into improving his swimming and athleticism. He has really been working hard to improve his strokes since a disappointing freshman season and it’s really starting to pay off for him.”

  In order to get faster, Langdon has been working with WO swim and dive assistant coach and West Ottawa Swim Club coach Sam Hoekstra. The two work together once a week in order to perfect Langdon’s strokes and hopefully prepare him to compete for a top 16 place at the state meet. “I have improved the way I swim freestyle and I have also worked on my turns. I changed the way that I breathe so I can line up my hips for a more aerodynamic stroke,” Langdon said. Langdon has also worked on keeping his body in line and flipping faster and more efficiently on flip turns. In addition, Langdon has made strides in his butterfly stroke as well by lengthening his arms and making his kick more powerful.

  Hoekstra, like Bowyer, is impressed with Langdon’s improvements since freshman year: “It’s really cool to see someone improve as much as Ryan has. I really think that with all the work he has been putting in with his strokes with me and in the weight room, he will have a shot at being top 16 at the state meet,” Hoekstra said.

  Even Langdon’s little brother, Frosh. Kyle Langdon, is impressed with Ryan’s improvements and hard work: “Ryan used to swim like a noodle, but now he looks like a regular person when he swims. I’m excited for him because I think he’ll do really well at the state meet and I’m excited to see where that will take him,” Kyle said.

  As for the future, Langdon hopes to place in the top 16 at the state meet and “to swim in college at a good school.” With his determination and willingness to drop everything he knows and try something new to get better, the possibilities are endless.