20 Under 20: The New Zealand Males Under 20yrs You Need to Be Watching

This is part 1 of a 2-part series. The other half of the 20 under 20, the females, will follow soon behind.

New Zealand is a country full of prospects. While the country has struggled at the elite international level since the retirement of former World Record holder Lauren Boyle back in 2017, this looks set to shift with an extremely strong class of young swimmers rising up the international ranks. We’ve compiled a list of 20 of the top swimmers in the country under the age of 20 – 10 males and 10 females. Listed below are 10 of the best male swimmers under the age of 20, who are looking most likely to break out and make an impact on a world stage in the near future. Let us know your thoughts on their potential and on prospects who weren’t included. These are listed in no particular order.

Note: The World Rankings are the top times from 1st January 2019 through to the current date and are LC times only. 

Lewis Clareburt

  • Age: 19
  • Events: 200 & 400m IM, 200m butterfly
  • Highest World Ranking: 26th (400 IM: 4:17.79 – PB 4:14.27)
  • Biggest Achievement: 3rd at Commonwealth Games, 5th at Pan Pacific Champs

Why You Should Be Paying Attention: Clareburt broke out at the 2018 Commonwealth Games dropping 4 seconds in the final (4:14) to pick up bronze. He was just 18 years of age and was splits outside of breaking the World Junior Record. He has incredible versatility not only having strong times in the IM and 200m Butterfly but also having some of the fastest times in the country in the 100m freestyle through to the 400m freestyle and the 200m backstroke. At Pan Pacifics last year, Clareburt picked up an impressive 5th despite having a breaststroke split almost 6 seconds slower than Kalisz who won the event in a 4:07. If Clareburt can improve his breaststroke he’s absolutely a contender at Tokyo.

Zac Reid

  • Age: 19
  • Events: 200m, 400m, 800m & 1500m freestyle
  • Highest World Ranking: 40th (800 freestyle: 8:04.06 – PB: 8:01.87)
  • Biggest Achievement: Youth Commonwealth Games Gold

Why You Should Be Paying Attention: Reid has consistently dropped time over the past few years bringing his events to a world class level. He is a seasoned international veteran with events like Youth Olympics, Youth Commonwealth Games and Junior Pan Pacs under his belt. He already has a good chance at Tokyo qualification in the 4x200m freestyle relay but it definitely isn’t out of the question for him to pick up an individual qualifying event by next year.

Michael Pickett

  • Age: 16
  • Events: 50m & 100m freestyle
  • Highest World Ranking: 71st (50 freestyle 22.66 – PB: 22.66)
  • Biggest Achievement: Junior Pan Pacific Bronze

Why You Should Be Paying Attention: Michael Pickett may be the fastest 16-year-old sprinter on the planet. Since moving to train in Queensland with St. Peters Western, Pickett has continued to drop time – breaking 23 for the first time at Junior Pan Pacs to grab a bronze through to NZ Age last week where he dropped 22.66 to equal his own national age record. If he continues to improve Tokyo is a realistic chance for him but he could be a serious contender come 2024 when he will only be 21. With a great team of coaches and teammates at his club and the ability to continuously improve he looks set for a hugely successful swimming career.

Thomas Watkins

  • Age: 18
  • Events: 100m & 200m backstroke, 400m IM
  • Highest World Ranking: 45th (200 backstroke 2:00.16 – PB: 2:00.16)
  • Biggest Achievement: National Age Records

Why You Should Be Paying Attention: 18 months ago Thomas Watkins‘ lifetime best in his 200m backstroke was. 2:06. Since joining Capital Swim Club and Lewis Clareburt, Watkins’ times have plummeted with his 200m backstroke last week clocking in at 2:00.16. Earlier this year Watkins also announced his commitment to Ohio State starting this fall. If his improvements can continue at anywhere near their current rate Tokyo is a genuine possibility.

Andrew Jeffcoat

  • Age: 19
  • Events: 50m, 100m & 200m backstroke
  • Highest World Ranking: 81st (200 backstroke 2:03.22 – PB: 2:02.63)
  • Biggest Achievement: 25th at World SC Champs

Why You Should Be Paying Attention: Jeffcoat is an impressive backstroker who has experience on an elite level. Last year in December he hit 24.17 to pick up 25th at World SC Champs in the 50m backstroke. His LC has potential also – despite changing clubs he still managed to hit multiple world top 100 times at the Australian Champs earlier this year.

Quinton Hurley

  • Age: 18
  • Events: 400m, 800m & 1500m freestyle
  • Highest World Ranking: 59th 1500m freestyle 15:46.86 – PB: 15:46.86)
  • Biggest Achievement: 19th at World SC Champs

Why You Should Be Paying Attention: Hurley is a pure distance swimmer and has experience on an elite level. He picked up 19th at World SC in 2018 in a 15:14.65. His long course times are equally impressive with his 800 having easy room to improve – when he hit his lifetime best he split 4:10/4:04 so it seems reasonable to expect that time to drop rapidly in the near future.

Zac Dell

  • Age: 17
  • Events: 50m, 100m & 200m backstroke
  • Highest World Ranking: 65th (100m backstroke 55.63 – PB: 55.63)
  • Biggest Achievement: World Juniors Qualification

Why You Should Be Paying Attention: Dell is one of the younger swimmers on this list so doesn’t have the same level of international experience. Despite that, Dell broke out in a big way this year at the NZ Age Champs, qualifying for the World Junior Champs in both the 100m and 200m backstroke and posting top 100 times in the world this year in both. with Dell only being 22 in 2024, the Paris Olympics are definitely a realistic target for the backstroker.

Tyron Henry

  • Age: 17
  • Events: 50m, 100m & 200m freestyle
  • Highest World Ranking: 125th (100m freestyle 50.56 – PB: 50.56)
  • Biggest Achievement: National Age Records

Why You Should Be Paying Attention: Tyron Henry has dominated his age group in the 50m and the 100m for years but recently has developed his 200m as well into a formidable event. Despite narrowly missing World Juniors qualification, Henry has plenty of time to continue development and gain further experience competing at an international level. While individual qualification for Tokyo seems like a stretch, a relay spot is definitely on the cards for the 17-year-old.

Luan Grobbelaar

  • Age: 17
  • Events: 200m breaststroke, 200m & 400m IM
  • Highest World Ranking: 46th (400m IM 4:21.81- PB: 4:20.24)
  • Biggest Achievement: South African Commonwealth Games team

Why You Should Be Paying Attention: Grobbelaar is South African born but recently changed his sporting citizenship to New Zealand. Despite only being 17 his times are already approaching world class, and he has a wealth of international experience with South Africa to back it up. He looks set to have a successful World Junior Championships if he can get close to lifetime bests – his 400 IM best would have placed him 5th at the 2017 event.

Callum Prime

  • Age: 19
  • Events: 200m & 400m IM, 200m backstroke
  • Highest World Ranking: 72nd (200m IM 2:03.06- PB: 2:03.06)
  • Biggest Achievement: World University Games Qualification

Why You Should Be Paying Attention: Prime qualified for the 200 IM for the World University Games earlier this year by dropping close to 3 seconds from his lifetime best to hit 2:03.06. While his 400 IM long course struggles in comparison, his short course 400 IM is a 4:16 indicating a good chance of a significant drop from his 400 IM LC best of 4:30.24. While individual qualification for Tokyo would be tough it isn’t out of the question following his 2:03.06.

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4 years ago

Good list – how close were Jason Churches, Lockie O’Conner and Ben Littlejohn?? Good couple of young ones with Tarquin Magner and Taiko Ormsby too.
When we seeing the female list?

4 years ago

what about carter swift!! he’s a beast

4 years ago