2015 Honorees: Alex Walsh and Zach Hils
Alex Walsh – Nashville Aquatic Club, Nashville, Tennessee
Our pick for 2014 SOY in the girls’ 11-12s category last year, Walsh continued to tear it up in 2015 in the 13-14 age group. Moving from Chelsea Piers in Connecticut to Nashville Aquatic Club in Tennessee didn’t seem to slow her down at all. Indeed, Walsh broke a pair of national age group records, led the nation in three other events, finished top-ten a total of 12 (out of a possible 28) times, and qualified for 2016 Olympic Trials in four events (before turning 14).
Short Course NAGs:
100y back – 51.62 – 12/11/15
200y IM – 1:56.20 – 12/10/15
What is remarkable about both Walsh’s national age group records is that she absolutely crushed her personal bests in both events. Swimming at Speedo Winter Juniors East in Atlanta, Walsh came in seeded sixth, never having broken 2:00. She dropped 1.27 seconds in prelims to make the A final in the third position, and another 2.60 seconds in finals to get the win and set the NAG record. Similarly, the next day Walsh was seeded 8th in the 100 back with 54.34. A 1.13-second improvement in prelims put her into lane 3 in the championship final, where she promptly dropped another 1.59 seconds for another national title and another record for 14-year-old girls. Her 100 back is now 1.25 seconds better than that of 14-year-old Kathleen Baker (2012), previously the fastest in history, while her 200 IM beats that of Missy Franklin (2010) by 1.5 seconds. Walsh will be 14 for 2/3 of 2016, giving her ample time to make a run at Franklin’s 200y back, 100/200m back and 200m IM records.
Walsh finished 2015 at the top in the 100/200y back, 100m back, 200y IM, and 200m IM. She was #2 in the 200m back; #3 in the 100y free, 100y breast and 100m breast; #4 in the 100y fly; #7 in the 50y free; and #9 in the 50m free.
In alphabetical order:
- Madison Homovich – North Carolina Aquatic Club/Marlins of Raleigh (NC): While she moved to MOR this fall, Homovich’s entire 13-14 career was swum with NCAC. Before aging out of the 13-14 category Homovich swam the nation’s fastest 1000/1650y free, 400y IM, and 400m IM of 2015. She was #2 in the 200y free and #3 in the 500y free. She also placed top-ten in the 400m free (4), 800m free (4), 200y fly (5), 200m fly (5), and 200m free (6). Homovich has qualified for 2016 Olympic Trials in the 400/800m free, 200m back, and 400m IM.
- Isabel Ivey – Gator Swim Club (FL): Ivey established herself as one of the leading all-around swimmers in the age group, finishing the year with the #1 IMX score for 14-year-olds in LCM season, nine top-ten swims and three 2016 Olympic Trials cuts (100m free and 200/400m IM). Ivey closed out the 13-14s ranked in the 50m free (10), 100m free (2), 200y free (9), 1500m free (7), 200y fly (4), 200y IM (10), 200m IM (6), 400y IM (4), and 400m IM (3).
- Caroline Kulp – Virginia Gators (VA): Kulp had an outstanding year, achieving big time drops across the board. Although she still has another couple of months to improve on her standings in the 13-14 age group, Kulp rounded out 2015 with nine top-ten performances: 200m free (8), 500y free (4), 1000y free (5), 800m free (7), 1650y free (4), 1500m free (5), 200m fly (5), 200y IM (6), and 400y IM (7).
Zach Hils – Wildcat Aquatics, Lexington, Kentucky
In a suprisingly evenly-distributed age category, one swimmer came out slightly ahead of his peers in 2015: Kentucky’s Zach Hils (although he recently moved to Lexington Dolphins, all Hils’ 13-14 performances were under the Wildcat Aquatics banner). Hils was #2 in IMX rankings for the 2014-15 short-course season, and he made top-ten in 12 of 28 events; no one else had more than 8.
Hils swam the fastest 200m IM of 2015, a 2:07.77 in the “D” final at Athens Sectionals that qualified him for Winter Nationals. Hils also finaled in the 200 free and 400 IM in Athens, one of the very few 14-year-olds to do so. Hils closed out the year ranked #2 in the 400y IM; #3 in the 200y free and 400m free; #4 in the 400m IM; #5 in the 100/500y free and 200m free; #7 in the 50y free and 200y IM; and #8 in the 100m free and 200y back.
Trey Freeman – Baylor Swim Club, Chattanooga, Tennessee
While Freeman was only in the 13-14 age group for the first three months of the year, he managed to finish 2015 with eight top-ten swims and a national age group record. Freeman took down the 200m free mark with a 1:53.31 in the “C” final of NCSA Spring Championships, the only 14-year-old to earn a second swim in the event. He went on to claim top-ten performances in the 200/500/1000/1650y free, 200/400/1500m free, and 200m fly.
Long Course NAG:
200m free – 1:53.31 – 3/19/15
Aldan Johnston – Lakeside Swim Team, Louisville, Kentucky
Johnston etched his name in the record books in the same event as Freeman. In fact, he swam the same time, as the only 14-year-old in the same “C” final, and in the summer version of the same meet as Freeman. Johnston’s three other top-ten swims were: 100/400m free and 200m IM.
Long Course NAG:
200m free – 1:53.31 – 7/30/15
In alphabetical order:
- Jarod Arroyo – Wasatch Front Fish Market (UT): Arroyo was #2 in the 14-year-old IMX rankings for LCM season, with three #1 times: 200y back and 200/400y IM. He also put up five more top-ten performances: 200m back, 200y fly, 200m fly, and 200/400m IM.
- Jack Dolan – Rockwood Swim Club (MO): Dolan also graced the top-ten lists eight times in 2015. He led the nation in the 50/100y freestyles, and was second in the 100y fly. His other top-ten swims included: 50/100m free, 100y back, 100m back, and 100m fly.
- River Wright – Bluefish Swim Club (MA): Wright had a breakout year, culminating in Winter Juniors cuts in the 200y fly and 200y IM in December. He finished with eight top-ten times: 50/100/200y free, 100m free, 200y fly, 200m fly, 200y IM, and 200m IM.