[N.B.: SwimSwam only considered athletes eligible to represent the United States in international competition in our Age Group Swammies.]
Missy Franklin, Colorado Stars, Centennial CO / University of California at Berkeley
With all her accomplishments it’s hard to believe Missy Franklin is still only eighteen. But she is, and therefore she is the unanimous choice for 17-18 Swimmer of the Year.
As an age-group swimmer, Franklin closed the books on 2013 having set NAG records in:
- 100y free 47.28
- 200y free 1:41.40
- 200y back 1:48.42
- 100m free 53.36
- 200m free 1:54.81
- 100m back 58.33 (American record, set in 2012 at Olympic Games)
- 200m back 2:04.06 (World, American records, set in 2012 at Olympic Games)
On the international stage, Franklin had an outstanding 2013 as well, having become the most successful female swimmer ever at Worlds, thanks to her record-breaking six gold medals at the 2013 FINA World Championships in Barcelona. These included individual victories in: 200m free, 100m back, and 200m back; and as a member of the relays: 4x100m free, and 4x200m free, and 4x100m medley. Franklin’s total world championship medal count now stands at nine golds, one silver and one bronze, making her the most decorated female swimmer in world championship history.
Franklin came home from Barcelona and began her college swimming career at Cal in the fall. There she has already proven a huge asset to the Golden Bears. At Winter Nationals she won the 100 back and 200 free, setting a meet record (1:41.40) in the latter, and contributed to Cal’s 800y free relay win with a meet record of 6:59.11. Franklin already has NCAA top-ten times for the season in 50/100/200/500y free and 100/200y back, and leads the nation in the 200y and 500y. Whatever she ends up swimming at NCAAs, it will be that much more exciting to watch.
Franklin is undeniably a unique and phenomenal athlete. But there’s more: she is also a role model for thousands of girls. She works hard in the classroom and in the pool. She is generous and accessible to fans. She cares for her family, friends and community. And she smiles: it’s obvious how much she enjoys swimming. Franklin draws fans in and makes people all over the country –and indeed, around the world– excited about swimming. Her enthusiasm is contagious and that’s a good thing for the sport.
- Janet Hu of Nation’s Capital Swim Club broke the National Age Group record in the 50 free at Winter Nationals, just days before her eighteenth birthday. Her 21.82 lowered the mark she had shared with Faith Johnson, both girls having achieved their 21.89s in 2013. Hu wrapped up the year with eight more top-ten swims, including 50m free, 100m fly, 100y free, 100/200y back, 100y fly, 200y IM, and the fastest 17-18 200y fly in the country.
- Celina Li of Pleasanton Seahawks showed a lot of depth and breadth with eleven swims in the top ten at year’s end: 100/200m breast, 200m fly, 200m/400m IM and 200y free, 200y breast, 100/200y fly, and 200/400y IM. She was the nation’s fastest in the 400m IM and 200y IM. Li won’t turn nineteen until the middle of the summer of 2014.
- North Baltimore Aquatic Club’s Cierra Runge and Gillian Ryan each had impressive years. Runge finished top-ten in 50/100/200/400m free and 200m IM as well as 200/500/1000y free and 200y IM; at 17 she posted the top time in the 1000 in her first-ever swim at that distance. Ryan, meanwhile, finished 2013 with the number one 17-18 times in the 400/800/1500m and 1650y frees, and top-tens in the 200m/200y/500/1000 frees.
- Annie Zhu, of North Baltimore Aquatic Club and University of Georgia, turned in the fastest 200m/200y breast and 400y IM of the year. She was also second in the 100m breast, third in the 200y IM, and fourth in both the 200m and 400m IMs.
- Bluefish Swim Club’s Brooke Zeiger showed a great deal of versatility in 2013, capping an impressive year with top-ten finishes in 400/800/1500m free, 200m back, 200m breast, 200/400m IM and 400y IM.
- Kylie Stewart of Dynamo Swim Club could have been on the Honorable Mention list for either 15-16 or 17-18, as she finished the year with several top-ten times for both age groups. As a 17-year-old those swims included: 200m free, 100/200m back, 200m fly, 200/400m IM, and 200y back.
Caeleb Dressel, Bolles School Sharks, Green Cove Springs FL
Caeleb Dressel didn’t even turn seventeen until mid-August when nearly all the summer meets had been swum and yet he still topped our list for the 17-18 Swimmer of the Year.
How is it even possible for a barely-seventeen-year-old to swim a sub-19 in the 50y free?
Dressel had been getting faster all fall; he went a 19.36 in a high school meet September to break the national and public high school record previously held by Vlad Morozov, a 19.43 from 2010 (it was also fast enough to take down Seth Stubblefield’s NAG of 19.41, set in 2012). We heard rumors about a low 19/high 18 (depending on whose watch we believed) fifty free during a Bolles workout. And then, in December at Winter Juniors he did the unthinkable: he went under 19 seconds leading off the Bolles School’s 200 free relay. 18.94, to be precise. One more time: eighteen ninety-four.
That’s not just the fastest 17-18 50 free in history, it’s a time that puts Dressel in an elite club of a handful sprinters EVER to have broken 19.00. Just for a little context, 18.94 would have placed Dressel second at NCAAs in 2013. (A senior in high school, Dressel will swim for University of Florida next year.)
Dressel’s other top ten 17-18 swims for the year were 50m free (1st), 100m free (1st), 200m free, 100/200y free, and 100y fly.
- Jack Conger, of Machine Aquatics and University of Texas, broke the national high school record in the 500 free this year by a country mile, that is, by nearly three seconds, with his 4:13.87. The historic swim lowered his own independent school record and wiped out the overall mark of 4:16 that had stood since 1983. In addition, he ended the year with the number one 200m back, 100y free and 200y back and top-ten swims in 100m free/back/fly and 200m IM, and 50/200y free, 100y back and 100/200y fly.
- Ryan Murphy, of Bolles School Sharks and University of California at Berkeley, broke Jack Conger’s national age group record in the 100 back to become the only 18-and-under swimmer ever to have cracked the 54-second barrier in the 100 back. And he was way under. Murphy’s 53.38 was .7 faster than Conger’s 54.04, and more than a second faster than Aaron Peirsol’s 54.47 which had held since 2002. Murphy wound up 2013 with thirteen times in the top ten of the age group: 100m free, 100/200m back, 100m fly, 200m IM, 50/100/200/500y free, 100/200y back, and 100/200y fly.
- Dynamo Swim Club’s Gunnar Bentz had an outstanding year, finishing atop the 17-18 rankings in the 200m breast and 200/400m IM. He won the 200m and 400m IM at 2013 FINA World Junior Championships in Dubai, setting the meet record in both events in the process. Bentz also had top-ten 17-18 finishes in the 200m free, 100m breast, 100m fly and 200y fly.
- Nation’s Capital Swim Club’s Andrew Seliskar, who was our 15-16 Swimmer of the Year, didn’t take much time to rise to the top of the 17-18s after aging up at the end of September. At year-end he had achieved top ten times in the 200y back, 100/200y breast, 200y fly, and 200/400y IM. Of those, he was the nation’s fastest in the 100 breast and 200 fly.
- Curtis Ogren, of Palo Alto Stanford Aquatics, capped off a very strong year with meet records in the 200y (1:45.08) and 400y (3:44.26) IM at Winter Juniors in December. In addition to the IMs he also won both the 100y and 200y breast. In May Ogren broke the national independent high school record in the 200 IM with 1:45.01, and California’s Central Coast Section record in the 100 breast with 53.90.
- And last but not least, the Litherland Triplets! Dynamo Swim Club’s Jay Litherland, Kevin Litherland, and Mick Litherland each had a 2013 worthy of mention; together they were amazing. Jay’s top swims were: 200/400m IM, 500/1000y free, 200/400y IM. Kevin: 800/1500m free, 1000/1650y free. Mick: 200m fly. Among their many other accomplishments this year, all three finaled (making up 1/8 of the event finalists) in the 500y free and 400y IM at Winter Juniors and they combined with Gunnar Bentz to set the meet record in the 800 free relay.