Lakeview junior Adam Waltman will be in the pool Friday and Saturday when the Spartans compete in the Southwest Michigan Athletic Conference Meet at Western Michigan University.
Regardless if he wins, medals, scores or finishes dead last, the fact that he’s in the water is impressive in itself.
Waltman was the passenger in a single-car accident Jan. 3, when he suffered a break in his femur. It came one day after he had qualified for the Michigan High School Athletic Association State Finals.
Now nearly two months later, Waltman could be a difference-maker when Division 2 fourth-ranked Lakeview takes on a loaded field at the SMAC Meet.
“The first thing I thought when I was in the ER just sitting there and my mom told me my friends were going to see me — pretty much all my friends are guys on the swim team — I just thought I’m done swimming forever,” Waltman said. “Just sitting there thinking, ‘This really sucks,’ because I qualified for state the day before. So I was really angry at the time. It was a lot, but I was thinking a lot about swimming.”
Waltman was helping a friend by serving as passenger on a trip to Hastings. On the way back to Battle Creek, the car hit a pot hole while turning a corner and the driver lost control of the vehicle. They veered off the edge of the road and hit a tree dead on.
“We hit the tree and I’m not sure if I was unconscious for a little bit, but I just sat up and what I thought there was smoke in the car,” Waltman said. “So I thought the car might have been on fire, so I leaned back the chair and crawled into the backseat because both the front doors were jammed shut. I started to grab the bar and try to crawl out, but I couldn’t get my leg over the console of the car — it just hurt too much.
“Someone pulled up and called 911 already, so I called my mom and scared her to death. I called her, and because I was breathing heavily because I was in a lot of pain and really tired from all the shock and everything, she said, ‘What are you doing?’ I said, mom I got in a car accident. Then she got really serious really quick. Then she put my dad on the phone and I talked to him for a second. I told him, ‘I can’t feel my leg,’ it felt really funny and I didn’t know what it was. He thought I said, ‘I can’t feel my legs,’ so he kind of freaked out but stayed really calm about it and didn’t tell my mom that — which was probably a good idea.”
Waltman was taken to Borgess Medical Center in Kalamazoo, and the next day he was in surgery when a rod and several screws were inserted into his left leg. He says he was walking with the aid of a chair within an hour of the surgery. The driver experienced a concussion, a broken finger and a broken foot.
Waltman was told that the engine block had shifted to his side and that is what likely broke his leg. Because it was an all-wheel drive vehicle, the 4-wheel drive shaft had actually kept the engine block from injuring him further.
“It’s a close-knit team, and to lose one was a big blow to our team,” Lakeview head coach Kyle Lott said. “To lose a state scorer, and he would have been right around the top eight (for All-State) at the state meet.”
Without needing a cast or brace, Waltman was quickly back in the pool. For the first couple of days, he walked in the shallow end, but he said the pace was too slow. So he dove in.
“When I was younger, you break a leg and you’re out a long time. You’d get a cast up to your hip,” Lott said. “With him, they threw a rod in his leg and stapled it up and said as soon as the staples come, you can do whatever you want, so he’s back in the water two weeks later.
“He’s walking up and down the pool, and then next thing you know, he’s swimming a little bit. Then it’s like, ‘Hey, he might be able to swim in the conference meet.’ Then we started talking after a couple weeks, ‘He might be able to score in the conference meet, he’s swimming pretty fast.’ He’s excited to help the team out and to try and score a couple points.”
Those points could be big, as the last time Lakeview and Portage Central were matched up in the pool, the meet ended with a 93-93 tie.
“He’s definitely not where he was at, but who cares,” Lott said. “One, he’s alive. Two, he’s able to still be a part of the team.”
Waltman said he won’t be close to 100 percent until next season, so he will not compete at this year’s MHSAA State Finals. But this weekend will offer the opportunity to contribute to the Spartans’ league title hopes — an opportunity that appeared in serious jeopardy on Jan. 3.
“I really do want to help my team, I just don’t want to sit and watch,” he said. “I want to help somehow, if it’s one point or more.”
Nick Buckley can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NickJBuckley
SWIMMING AND DIVING LEAGUE MEETS
• SMAC: At Western Michigan University
Teams: Battle Creek Central, Lakeview, Mattawan/Kalamazoo Hackett (co-op), Kalamazoo Central, Loy Norrix, Portage Central, Portage Northern, St. Joseph, Bridgman/Stevensville Lakeshore (co-op)
• SWCMSL: At Allegan
Teams: Harper Creek, Marshall, Allegan, Alma, Otsego, Plainwell, South Haven, Sturgis
• Division 2 at Continental Lanes: Lakeview, Coldwater, Marshall, Gull Lake
• Division 3 at Eastland Bowl: Pennfield, Olivet (boys only)
• Division 4 at Northway Lanes: Galesburg-Augusta
• Division 2 at Middleville-Thornapple Kellogg: Gull Lake
• Division 3 at Rockford: Delton Kellogg
• Division 4 at Sparta: Bronson