Henry and Dean Wall are both mature beyond their years.
The brothers who both shine in the swimming pool for Cherokee Bluff High have been molded by many years of diligent training, and are now two of the most talented in the sport at the high school level in Hall County.
Henry, a senior, and Dean, a junior with sky-high potential, have combined to qualify for five individual events and make up half of the Bears’ three relay teams to the state championship for Class A-5A, starting Friday at Georgia Tech.
However, it’s their affable nature that completes the picture of two kids that it’s fun to see have success.
“They’re incredibly skilled swimmers,” Cherokee Bluff swim coach Kristi Goodwin said. “But also great kids. Very encouraging, well-behaved boys. They push each other, but are team players through and through.”
Dean, the middle son of Michelle and Hank Wall, is the rising superstar — locally and on the national level.
However, Henry’s role during his sterling four-year prep career at Cherokee Bluff has been just as important: carrying his own weight in the relays, while also supporting Dean’s burgeoning career.
“Henry is the quintessential big brother,” Goodwin said.
The older of the Wall swimmers has posted state-qualifying times in the 50 freestyle (23.32 seconds), 100 butterfly (57.08) and 100 breaststroke (1:01.72).
Henry, 18, and Dean, 17, are also part of Cherokee Bluff’s state qualifiers in the 200-medley relay, 200-freestyle relay and 400-freestyle relay.
To reach such heights of success has been a serious time commitment for Henry and Dean, but has paid dividends for both academically and instilling life lessons for the future.
And after spending upward of three hours each day with practice obligations, Goodwin said, the Frances Meadows Aquatics Center has become a second home for the entire Wall family.
“It’s been an amazing experience getting to swim with my brother,” Dean said. “It’s going to be weird when he goes off to swim in college. We’ve always been in the pool together. My first day swimming was his first day swimming.”
“I’ve had so much fun getting to swim with my brother,” said Henry, who will swim year at the University of the Cumberlands in Kentucky.
Their youngest brother, Jeff, is an eighth grader who swims in the Bears’ middle school program, while their sister, 10-year-old June, is also able to take part in activities at the pool in Gainesville.
As an athlete, Dean has all the talent and puts in the work necessary to become elite.
He already owns the Hall County record in the 50 freestyle (21.23), which was previously held by 2014 North Hall grad Paul Powers, who went on to have a strong career at the University of Michigan.
Dean is also closing in on Powers’ county-best mark in the 100 freestyle, currently holding a personal best of 47.39.
“Dean’s a high-power freestyle swimmer,” his proud big brother said.
Dean has also had to deal with serious injury, tearing the UCL in his arm, while competing in a meet just before the start of the current high school season.
Despite having a three-month period with limited training capabilities while getting back to full strength, Dean is aiming for the state championship in his individual races.
“I want to win it all,” he said. “I plan on going really fast this weekend.”
Even with the individual accolades, Henry and Dean — both honors students — have found competing in the four-person relay events some of the most rewarding experiences.
Dean provides the powerful final kick to the 400-yard relay team that took third place at state in 2021.
However, it’s cheering on their teammates that is equally satisfying.
At the 2022 Hall County championship, Bears junior Pace Nelson was down to his final attempt to break the one-minute mark in the 100-backstroke in order to earn a spot to state.
To encourage their teammate, Dean and Henry were leading the cheers at both ends of the pool for their teammate to feel the support each time he touched the wall.
That extra support made all the difference, as Nelson posted a mark of 58.84 and will swim in Atlanta this weekend.
“It was like an eruption of joy when he did it,” Goodwin said. “I was crying, but it was all tears of joy.”
The state championship meet opens Thursday with diving events.
Racing in both Class A-5A and 6A-7A begins with preliminary events Friday, then finals on Saturday.
State meet qualifiers
Dean Wall: 50 freestyle, 100 freestyle
Henry Wall: 500 freestyle, 100 butterfly, 100 breaststroke
Evan Young: 200 freestyle, 500 freestyle, 100 butterfly, 100 freestyle
Pace Nelson: 100 backstroke, 50 freestyle
Jaxson Hopper: 200 medley relay, 200 freestyle relay and 400 freestyle relay
Madison Blankenship, Finley Toombs, Kyleigh Giles and Ava Williams: 200 freestyle relay
Sadie Corbin, Jayla Dao, Kelly Vetrano, Samantha Walton: 200 medley relay
Reid Barnes, Cole Klukaszewski, Brock Adams, Dawson Sherwood: 200 medley relay
Connor Polhemus, Dawson Sherwood, Brock Adams, Cole Klukaszewski: 200 freestyle relay and 400 freestyle relay
Jayla Dao: 100 freestyle, 200 individual medley, 100 breaststroke
Brock Adams: 100 breaststroke
Dawson Sherwood: 200 IM
Wade Cochran: 50 yard freestyle, 100 free
Eamon Monaghan 200 IM, 50 free, 100 butterfly, 100 freestyle, 100 backstroke
Jacob Nguyen: 200 freestyle, 200 IM, 50 freestyle, 100 butterfly, 100 freestyle, 100 backstroke, 100 breast stroke
Cochran, Nguyen, Monaghan and Jake Lindsey: 200 medley relay and 200 freestryle relay
Sophia Johnson, Bella Baker, Molly Loudon, Trista Warner: 200 medley relay, 200 freestyle relay, 400 freestyle relay
Tyner Kinney, Blake Bubniak, Bowen Lewis, Dennis Carey: 200 medley relay
Cates Greene, Boone Adams, Ben Pardue, Blake Bubniak: 200 freestyle relay
Bowen Lewis, Tyner Kinney, Dennis Carey, Ben Pardue: 400 freestyle relay
Dennis Carey: 100 butterfly, 200 IM
Tyner Kinney: 100 butterfly, 100 backstroke
Blake Bubniak: 200 IM, 100 breastroke
Bowen Lewis: 100 freestyle and 100 butterfly