2016 Honorees: Regan Smith and Carson Foster
Regan Smith – Riptide Swim Team, Apple Valley, Minnesota
Smith tore up the 13-14 age group throughout 2016, and was a formidable force in open swimming as well. In addition to setting three national age group records (some of them multiple times), Smith held her own on the international stage when she competed in the FINA World Cup meets in Tokyo and Hong Kong as a member of the U.S. National Junior Team this fall. There she became the 11th-fastest American in history in both the 100 SCM and 200 SCM backstrokes. Her 200 time is currently ranked #12 in the world for the 2016-17 season.
Back at home Smith had a terrific year. She was the #1 (200y free, 100/200y back, 100m back, 100/200y fly, 200y IM, and 200m IM) or #2 (200m free, 200m back, and 100/200m fly) swimmer in 12 of 28 possible events, SCY and LCM combined, and #3 in two more (100m free and 400m IM). At just 14-and-a-few-months she was a semi-finalist in the 100m back at U.S. Olympic Trials. Less than two months later she wrapped up her summer season by taking a .19 chunk out of Missy Franklin’s NAG record in the 100m back, a time that had stood since 2009. This winter she added her name to two more NAGs at Winter Juniors West: she broke the 100y back and obliterated the 100y fly marks, both on the same night.
Short Course NAGs:
100y back – 51.09 – 12/9/16
100y fly – 51.73 – 12/9/16
Long Course NAG:
100m back – 1:00.26 – 8/5/16
Smith has another month as a 14-year-old before moving up to the 15-16s. When she does swim as a 15-year-old, she’ll already be at the top of the age group. Her 100y back time would have broken Rachel Bootsma’s 2010 NAG by .44 and her 100y fly time would rank second, .65 behind Beata Nelson’s 2014 51.08.
Tristen Ulett – Dynamo Swim Club, Chamblee, Georgia
In any other year, Ulett would have stood out as the undisputed champion of the 13-14 girls. She spent the first half of the year as a 13-year-old, for which she earned the #1 IMX score in SCY. While only 14 for the last month or two of 2015-16 SCY season, Ulett nonetheless managed to rise to #3 in the single-age category IMX ranking. Ulett rose to national prominence after dropping 5 seconds over the previous 12 months to break the NAG in the 100y fly at Georgia 14&U Short Course Championships in February. She was the first 14-and-under girl to break the 53-second barrier, which was a remarkable accomplishment. Ten months later Smith obliterated that mark, but the two girls remain the only 13-14 sub-53s in history. Ulett has the first half of 2017 to close the gap.
The 100 fly wasn’t Ulett’s only strong point; she was #2 among all 13-14 girls in the 100/200y fly, #3 in the 200m free and 100m fly, #4 in the 100m back and 200m fly, #5 100m free, 200y free, and 200m IM, #7 in the 100y free, and #8 in the 200y IM. She also had strong swims in the 100/200y back, 50/500y free, and 400y IM. A couple of weeks after turning 14, Ulett competed in the 100 back and 100 fly at U.S. Olympic Trials.
In no particular order:
- Kate Douglass – Westchester Aquatic Club (NY): Douglass took down a national age group record, herself, blasting a 22.32 in prelims of the 50 free at the New York High School Section 1 Girls’ Championships. The NAG she broke had belonged to Dara Torres for 34 years, and was the oldest record on the books for 13-14 girls. Douglass finished 2016 with the #1 time for 13-14 girls in the 50/100y free, 50m free, 200y breast, and 200m breast. She was ranked #2 in the 100y breast, #3 in the 100m breast, #4 in the 100m free, #5 in the 200/400y IM, and #6 in the 200m IM.
- Miranda Heckman / Madelyn Donohoe – Heckman: Pleasanton Seahawks (CA) / Donohoe: The Fish (VA): Together, Heckman and Donohoe dominated the distance freestyle events in the age category throughout all of 2016. Heckman was #1 in the 500y free and 400m free; Donohoe topped the field in the 1000/1650 free and 800/1500m free. Heckman was #2 in the 1000y/800m and #3 in the 200y/1650y free; Donohoe was #2 in the 500y/400m and #4 in the 200m free. Heckman also threw in a #4 ranking in the 400y IM and a pair of #7s in the 100/200m free.
- Alex Walsh – Nashville Aquatic Club (TN): Walsh gets a half-mention in 13-14s and a half-mention in 15-16s. Walsh is incredibly versatile, and left the 13-14 age group with an eclectic set of nation-leading times: 200m back and 100m breast (#1); 50y free, 100m back, 200y IM, and 200m IM (#2); 100/200y back (#3), and 100y breast (#4).
Carson Foster – Mason Manta Rays, Mason, Ohio
Foster is a true IMer, with nary a weak spot in his lineup. He closed out 2016 ranked #1 in the nation for 13-14 boys in the 200y IM, 200m IM, 400y IM, and 400m IM. He was one of the very few 14-year-old boys competing at U.S. Olympic Trials; he finished 43rd in the 400m IM.
Foster was the top 14-year-old in IMX rankings for both the 2015-16 short course season and the 2016 long course season. In addition to the four nation-leading IM times he posted, Foster was #2 in the 200m free and 200y breast, #3 in the 100m fly and 200y fly, #4 in the 100/200y back, and #6 in the 200y free and 100m back.
Not only did Foster dominate all his IM competition this year; he was one of the best IMers in history for the age category. Foster’s 3:52.25 in the 400y IM ranks second on the all-time top 100 list; only Michael Andrew has been faster, and that, by only .17 (3:52.08). Foster aged out of 13-14s with the third-best 400m IM time ever (4:27.03), behind Michael Phelps (4:24.77) and Sean Grieshop (4:26.62). He is also ranked third in the 200m IM and fifth in the 200y IM, and appears on the top-100 list 6 more times in SCY (200 free, 100/200 back, 200 breast, and 100/200 fly) and 7 in LCM (50/200 free, 100/200 back, 200 breast, and 100/200 fly).
Though he has only been 15 for a month, Carson has already amassed top-10 single-age (15) times in five events (100/200y back, 200 fly, and 200/400 IM), including a #1 ranking in the 400 IM.
Tyler Lu – King Aquatic Club, Federal Way, Washington
The most remarkable thing about Lu is that he wasn’t even 13 until March of 2016. Yet in the 10 months that followed his entry into the age category, Lu showed he was one of the best 13-14s in the nation. He posted the top IMX score for 13-year-olds in the LCM season, and leads the age category again in the 2016-17 SCY season currently underway. In the combined 13-14 age group, Lu swam the #7 200m back time for the year, the #8 200y back, #10 100y back, and #11 100m back. He was also top-30 in the 200/400 IMs in both SCY and LCM, and had impressive performances in the 50m free, 100y free, 100/200y breast, and 100y fly.
Lu swam the backstroke leg on KING’s national age group record-breaking 200y medley relay and 200m medley relay. He has already notched 2 SCY performances and 3 LCM performances on the all-time top-100 list for 13-14 boys, and he has another 14 months in which to improve his rankings.
In no particular order:
- Destin Lasco – Pleasantville Aquatics (NJ): Lasco broke Michael Andrew’s national age group record in the 200 yard freestyle this summer, at the SAKA Summer Sunset meet in Philadelphia. The SCY meet took place in August, a week after he came within .01 of Andrew’s 100 meter free record while swimming at U.S. Open. Lasco aged out of the 13-14s with the nation’s top times in the 200y free, 100/200m back, and 200y back. He was also #2 in the 100m free and 200m IM, and #6 in the 100y free. When he turned 15 in the fall, Lasco had left behind 6 SCY and 5 LCM performances on the all-time lists for 13-14 boys.
- Ethan Dang – King Aquatic Club (WA): At not-quite-14-and-a-half, Dang was the youngest male to swim at 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials, where he competed in both the 100m breast and 200m breast. Dang went on to break the national age group record in the latter event at the Pacific Northwest 14&U Championships at the end of July, slipping past the 2:16 barrier for the first time in history for a 13-14 boy. Dang is head-and-shoulders above his peer group in his top events; he finished the year #1 in the 100/200 breast in both SCY and LCM, averaging 1063 power points per swim over the four events.