2015 Honorees: Courtney Harnish and Michael Andrew
It may sound like a broken record, given that Courtney Harnish and Michael Andrew were our picks last year for the 13-14 age group, but no one else established themselves in 2015 in a more all-around fashion in the 15-16 age category than these two swimmers.
Courtney Harnish – YMCA of York County, York, Pennsylvania
Harnish continued her steady domination of her peer group throughout 2015. She began with a stellar performance at YMCA National Short Course Championships in Greensboro, North Carolina, where she won every individual event she entered (200/500/1000y free, and 200y fly) and set meet records in the 200y free, 200y back, and 200y fly.
Harnish then went on to represent the USA internationally at the 2015 Pan American Games in July, competing in the 800m free and contributing to Team USA’s gold medal and meet record in the 4x200m free relay, splitting a 1:59.6 for her first time under 2:00 in the long course pool. From there Harnish swam at U.S. Nationals in San Antonio. She went lifetime-bests in the 200/400m free and 100/200m fly, and finished on the podium in the 400 free. Her performance led to an invitation to represent the U.S. National Junior Team at FINA World Cup events in Doha and Dubai.
Harnish is among the top 100 15-16 girls in history in the 200/500/1000/1650y free, 200y back, 200y fly, and 400y IM, as well as the 200/400/800/1500m free, 200m back, 100/200m fly, and 400m IM.
At barely 17 next summer, Harnish will compete to make the U.S. Olympic Team in the 200m free, 400m free, 800m free, 200m back, 100m fly, 200m fly, and 400m IM.
In alphabetical order:
Margaret Aroesty – Long Island Aquatic Club (NY): Aroesty had an enormous year in 2015, dropping mind-blowing amounts of time in her best events: nearly 5 seconds in the 100m breast, 7.5 in the 200m breast, 5 in the 200m IM, and just over 16 in the 400m IM. She made 2016 Olympic Trials in all four events. In short course season, Aroesty improved similarly, and is now the seventh-fastest 15-16 100y breaststroker of all-time, just .01 from breaking the 1-minute barrier.
Cassidy Bayer – Nation’s Capital Swim Club (MD): Bayer continued to improve in her best events this year, including the 100 and 200 butterflies, both short course and long course. Bayer represented Team USA at the FINA Junior World Championships, where she just missed the podium in the 100m fly after a field-leading lifetime-best in prelims, and a number two time in semi-finals. Bayer finished at or near the top of her age group in the 100/200y fly, 100/200m fly, 200y IM, and 200/400m IM. She is qualified for 2016 Trials in 100/200m fly and 200/400m IM.
Michael Andrew – Indie Swimming, Lawrence, Kansas
Andrew has earned the SOY award for his age group in each of the last three years. We have watched him grow, both physically and as an athlete, and continue to be astounded at the list of his accomplishments. During the 2015 calendar year, Andrew continued his assault on the NAG record books, finishing with the 50y free, 100 breast, 100 fly, and 200 IM in short course yards and the 50 free, 100 breast, and 100 fly in long course meters.
The only professional swimmer in the 15-16 age category, Andrew finished atop the rankings in the 50y free, 50m free, 100y back, 100y breast, 100m breast, 100y fly, 100m fly, 200y IM, and 200m IM. He was second in the 100y free, 100m free, and 100m back, 5th in the 200m breast, and 6th in the 200y fly. He was selected to represent the USA National Junior Team at both the FINA Junior World Championships and FINA World Cup events in Doha and Dubai. He earned Swimmer of the Meet honors at both Junior Worlds and U.S. Summer Juniors.
Although he broke many of these NAG records several times throughout the year, here is where they stand at year-end 2015:
Short Course NAGs:
50y free – 19.24 – 12/19/15
100y breast – 51.75 – 12/18/15
100y fly – 46.23 – 12/11/15
200y IM – 1:42.77 – 12/10/15
Long Course NAGs:
50m free – 22.34 – 8/3/15
100m breast – 1:00.68 – 8/6/15
100m fly – 52.57 – 8/1/15
While he has another four months to continue to etch his name in the books, 2016 is an Olympic year. If Andrew is focused on making the U.S. Team for Rio, he can’t swim every single event at Trials. He showed at Junior Worlds that while he’s got incredible versatility, there is a limit to the number of events he can swim and still race at the top of his game. At Trials it won’t be just age group records he’s racing against; he will be up against the Big Boys. Having turned pro at such a young age, there are already huge expectations of him. It’s hard to remember he will just have turned 17 when he races at his first Olympic Trials in July.
Sean Grieshop – Nitro Swimming, Cedar Park, Texas
Grieshop, too, overshadowed his very successful 2014 with an even better 2015. He punctuated the year with Swimmer of the Meet honors at Winter Juniors West, where he won the 200/500/1650y free, and 400y IM, and was runner-up in the 200y breast and 200y IM. At Summer Nationals, he was 18-and-under champion in the 200m IM and 400m IM, and made the podium in the latter. Grieshop went on to represent Team USA at the FINA Junior World Championships in Singapore, where he won the men’s 400m IM on the very first night.
Grieshop finished the year ranked #1 in the 400 IM in both SCY and LCM. He was also ranked in the top ten of the age group in the 200m free (5), 400m free (2), 800m free (3), 1500m free (3), 1650y free (5), 200m back (10), 200m fly (8), 200y IM (5), and 200m IM (2).
In alphabetical order:
- Matthew Hirschberger – Nation’s Capital Swim Club (MD): Hirschberger established himself as the fastest 15-16 mid-distance freestyler in history when he broke both the 500y and 1000y free records this year. Hirschberger’s 500y free record of 4:16.43 (3/18/15) was just .16 faster than Grieshop’s mark from 2014, but his 1000 time of 8:45.11 (3/17/15) eclipsed Jeff Kostoff’s 1982 mark by nearly 5 seconds. Hirschberger wound up with five more top-ten times: he was #1 in the 400/800m frees, #2 in the 200/1500m frees, and #6 in the 200y free.
- Reece Whitley – Penn Charter Aquatic Club (PA): Whitley also knocked off a pair of national age group records this year. He and Andrew have spent the better part of the last couple of years trading NAGs in the 100 breast, but the 200 belongs to Whitley. After several iterations, he settled the marks at 1:53.66 in SCY (12/12/15) and at 2:11.30 in LCM (8/10/15). Whitley made finals in all three (50/100/200m) distances of the breaststroke as a member of Team USA at FINA Junior Worlds in Singapore; he finished sixth in the 50, fourth in the 200, and won a silver medal in the 100 with a personal-best 1:01.00. Whitley was only 15 last summer, so he has an entire long course season to lower his own marks in the 200 and to break Andrews’ in the 100. Whitley ended 2015 ranked #1 in both SCY and LCM 200 breasts, #2 in both 100 breasts, and #7 in both 200 IMs.