2017 Honorees: Gretchen Walsh and Dare Rose
Gretchen Walsh – Nashville Aquatic Club, Nashville, Tennessee
As one half of the Walsh duo (the other one being her older sister, Alex Walsh) that lit up Winter Junior Nationals East with their record-breaking swims, Gretchen Walsh closed out 2017 with a bang. The 14-year-old hinted at what was in store for the meet with explosive relay legs on the first night; she blasted a 21.01 50 free on the end of NAC’s 200 medley relay and went 1:46.17 on their meet record-breaking 800 free relay. The 21-flat anchor was a remarkable feat for any swimmer, let alone one so young. In fact, it would have been the fastest anchor on any medley relay, prelims or finals, and the second-fastest split on any 200 free relay (Farida Osman broke 21 anchoring Cal’s winning and record-setting relay in finals), at 2017 NCAA Women’s Championships. The next day Walsh destroyed the 13-14 NAG record in the 50 free, going 22.26 in prelims and 22.00 in finals, largely eclipsing the 22.32 mark that had belonged to Kate Douglass since 2016.
Walsh wrapped up 2017 with the #1 swim for 13-14 girls in the 50/100y free, 50/100m free, and 100y fly. She was 5th in the 100m back, 6th in the 100y back, and 7th in the 200y free and 100m fly. With a couple of months left to continue her ascent on the all-time top-100 lists before she ages out of the 13-14s, Walsh is already #1 in the 50y free, #4 in the 50m free, 100y free, and 100y fly, #5 in the 100m free, and ranked in the top 50 of the 200y free, 100y back, 100m back, and 100m fly.
Short Course NAGs:
50y free – 22.26 – 12/7/2017
50y free – 22.00 – 12/7/2017
Amy Tang – Pacific Dragons Swim Team, Issaquah, Washington
Tang has been a constant, if not very flamboyant, fixture in this age group for two years. She is one of the top sprint free and backstroke specialists in the cohort, and packs a mean punch in fly and IM, too. Tang swam back-to-back championships in December, competing at the Pacific Northwest 14-and-Under Age Group Championships, then at the Washington State Senior Championships, and she managed to hold her taper long enough to notch PBs at both meets (including 50/100/200/500 free and 100 back).
Tang swam the #1 100y back and 100m free of the year, and was 2nd in the 100y free and 200m IM. She recently moved to 3rd in the 200y free and 4th in the 50y free. She was 4th in the 100m back, 7th in the 200m back, and 9th in the 100y fly. A freshman, Tang won the 100/200 free double at her first high school state meet in November, and broke state records in both events during the season. With a month left to go, Tang ranks #3 on the all-time list for 13-14 girls in the 100y back, #5 in the 100m free, #6 in the 100y free, #15 in the 200y free, #18 in the 100m back, #22 in the 50y free, #27 in the 200m IM, and #32 in the 100y fly.
In no particular order:
- Grace Sheble – NOVA of Virginia Aquatics (VA): Sheble had a strong and steady 2017, improving about 1 second per 50 in her SCY freestyle events alone. Her real prowess, however, is in the 400 IM. Sheble became only the second 13-14 year-old girl in history to break the 4:10 barrier; she is about 6/10 off Katie Hoff’s 2004 national mark of 4:08.44. Had she swum at Juniors this past December instead of making NCAP Invitational her end-of-season championship meet, she would have won the 400 IM at Easts and been runner-up at Wests. Sheble had the top time for 13-14 girls for 2017 in the 200m fly, 200/400m IM and 400y IM. She was 3rd in the 200y fly, 4th in the 200y IM, and 8th in the 200/500y free and 400m free.
- Chase Travis – Nation’s Capital Swim Club (MD/VA): Travis is one of the top freestylers in her cohort for anything longer than a 200. She aged out of the 13-14s halfway through the year but no one caught her over the last six months in the 1650y or 800/1500m free, where she ended 2017 at the top spot. She was 2nd in the 500/1000y free, 3rd in the 400m free, and 7th in the 200m free. Travis ranks 8th all-time among 13-14 girls in the 1650y free, 21st in the 1000, and 22nd in the 1650; she is also 14th in the 1500m free and 24th in the 800. Travis, too, forewent Juniors for the NCAP Invite. Now 15, she notched the 37th time in history for 15-16s in the 1000 free and cracked the top-80 in the 500 and 1650.
- Tristen Ulett – Dynamo Swim Club (GA): Ulett came with .06 of Cassidy Bayer’s 2016 NAG record in the 200y fly in March, going 1:56.07 to win the event at 2017 Southern Premier Championships. Although she aged into the 15-16s halfway through the year, Ulett remained #1 in 2017 in the 13-14s in the 200y fly, #2 in the 100y fly, #4 in the 100m fly, #5 in the 200y free and 200m IM, #7 in the 200y IM, #8 in the 100y free, 100m back and 200y back, and #10 in the 200m fly. She remains 2nd on the all-time list in the 100y fly and 200y fly.
- Olivia McMurray – Swim Florida (FL): McMurray is one of the most prolific talents in the age group, finishing 2017 with 11 top-10 swims, ten of which are in 200s and above. Only a freshman, she won both the 200 IM and 500 free at the Florida 3A high school championships in November, joining the very small handful of 13-14 girls to ever have broken 2 minutes in the 200 IM. McMurray posted the 2nd 200y IM and 400m IM of 2017, #3 400y IM and 200m free, #4 200/1000y free and 800m free, #5 500y free, #6 200m IM, and #9 100m free and 400m IM. She cracked the top-20 of all-time in both the 200/400y IM this fall, and has another couple of months in which to improve her position before aging into the 15-16s.
- Mariah Denigan – Northern Kentucky Clippers (KY): One of the top 400 IMers in the age group, Denigan has a big range that includes distance freestyle and backstroke. She wraps up the year with 11 swims in the top 10 for 2017. She is ranked 2nd in both 400y and 400m IM, 3rd in the 500y free and 1500m free, 4th in the 1650 free and 200m back, 5th in the 200/800m free, 6th in the 400m free, 8th in the 200m IM, and 9th in the 1000y free. On the all-time top-100 list, she has cracked the top-10 in the 400m IM with the 9th swim in history; she also owns the 16th 400y IM. Denigan is also on the charts in the 500 free, 200/800/1500m free, and 200m back. With 5 months left to go before aging out of the 13-14s, Denigan still has plenty of time left to continue rising through the ranks.
Dare Rose – Scarlet Aquatics, Piscataway, New Jersey
Dare Rose, who had risen to national prominence when he broke the 200m fly National Age Group record for 11-12 boys in 2015, spent 2017 inching his way up the ladder in the 200 free and 400/500 free. He wound up dominating the entire swath of 100-to-400m freestyle events, finishing 2017 ranked at the top of the age group in all three. He also topped the charts in the 200y free and 100/200m fly. Rose had five more top-10 swims during the year: 200y fly (3rd), 200m IM (5th), 100y free (9th), 400m IM (9th), and 100y fly (10th).
Rose had several large time drops this year, but none as impressive as the 6.31-second drop in the 200m free that led to his NAG record this summer. Rose closed out the summer of 2016 with a 1:59.61 leadoff split in the 200m free at New Jersey Junior Olympics. In March he earned his first Winter Juniors cut in the event at Arena Pro Swim in Indianapolis going 1:55.28. He chipped another second away at Indy Sectionals at the end of March, and showed up at Summer Juniors with a seed time of 1:55.25. He knocked a tenth off leading off the SCAR 800 free relay, then unleashed a 1:53.39 in prelims, narrowly missing the NAG held concurrently by Trey Freeman and Aidan Johnston, who both swam 1:53.31s in 2015. Rose came back in finals and went 1:53.30, replacing Freeman and Johnston in the books.
Long Course NAGs:
200m free – 1:53.30 – 8/11/2017
When Rose aged out of the 13-14s at the end of the summer, he had achieved all-time top-20 rankings in six events: LCM 100m free (16th), 200 free (1st), 400 free (3rd), 100 fly (4th), and 200 fly (2nd), and SCY 200 free (6th) and 200 fly (6th). He also makes the lists in the 200/400m IM, 100/500y free, 100y fly, and 200y IM. This fall he has already established himself as 24th on the 15-16 all-time list in the 200y fly and has cracked the top-80 in the 500y free and 100y fly.
Lleyton Plattel – Pleasanton Seahawks, Pleasanton, California
Lleyton Plattel kicked off his freshman year of swimming at Amador Valley High School by knocking off the National Age Group record for 13-14 boys in the 500y free. Twice. From an early age Plattel has shown prowess in distance swimming, with remarkably even pacing and a nice motor on the end. That was on display in May when, as the only freshman in the final of the 500 free at 2017 North Coast Section Championships, he came in third with a best-by-2.1-seconds 4:25.62, taking a big 1.1-second bit out of Alex Katz’ 2011 record of 4:26.73. The next weekend he swam again at the California State Championships, and this time he lowered his record by just over 8/10 with his prelims swim of 4:24.79.
Short Course NAGs:
500y free – 4:25.62 – 5:11/2017
500y free – 4:24.79 – 5/18/2017
Plattel aged out of the 13-14s with the top times for the year in the 500y free and 800/1500y free. He was 2nd in the 400m free, 3rd in the 200y free, 4th in the 1650y free, 5th in the 200m free, and 6th in the 1000y free. In addition to ranking #1 all-time in the 500 free, he is 2nd in the 800/1500m free, 4th in the 1650y free, 11th in the 400m free, 16th in the 1000y free, and top-50 in the 200m free and 200y free.
In the short time he has been competing as a 15-16, Plattel has already cracked the top-40 all-time in the 400/800/1500m free.
- Tyler Lu – King Aquatic Club (WA): Lu is one of the most consistent performers in the 13-14s and he excels across a broad range of events. He was the #1 200y IMer and 400m IMer in the cohort, and finished second in the 200y back, 100m back, and 200m IM. Lu was also 3rd in the 50m free and 200m back, 4th in the 100y back, 8th in the 100m free, and 9th in the 50y free. With another two months left in the age group, he ranks in the top-20 all-time in the 100/200y back, 200y IM, 50m free, 100/200m back, and 200/400m IM.