2017 Honorees: Regan Smith and Carson Foster
Regan Smith – Riptide Swim Team, Apple Valley, Minnesota
Regan Smith, who was 14 at her first meet of 2017, rose quickly to the top of the 15-16 age group after gaining access in February. Well, frankly, let’s just say any age group. After warming up with a couple of short course meets in early spring, which included swims that placed her in the top-10 all-time for the 15-16s in the 100 back and the top-20 in the 100 fly, Smith turned her attention to long course season. At 2017 U.S. Nationals and World Championship Trials, she became the youngest swimmer to qualify for Budapest by finishing second in the 200 back with 2:08.55. At World Championships she unleashed a 2:07.19 in semifinals to break the World Junior Record in the event, shaving 0.10 off Daria Ustinova’s 2015 mark of 2:07.29. (Kaylee McKeown erased Smith’s WRJ the next night, going 2:06.76 in finals.)
In August, Smith represented the United States at 2017 Junior World Championships in Indianapolis. There she won gold in the 100m back, defeating Taylor Ruck who had broken the WJR in semis with 59.28. Smith’s finals swim of 59.11 took down the Championship Record, World Junior Record, and National Age Group Record for 15-16 girls, which had previously belonged to Missy Franklin with 59.18, in one fell swoop. She then swam a 58.95 to lead off Team USA’s mixed medley relay. A few days later, Smith repeated her 59.11 leading off the U.S. women’s medley relay. While FINA does not recognize leadoffs on mixed relays for World Junior Records, USA Swimming does allow them, so Smith’s 15-16 NAG now stands at 58.95. Smith also claimed the 200m back title in Indianapolis, establishing a new Championship Record with 2:09.07.
This fall, swimming for Team USA at the 2017 College Challenge, Smith swam a 51.30 in the 100y back to place second and take down Rachel Bootsma’s 2010 NAG of 51.53.
Junior World Records:
200m back – 2:07.19 – 7/28/2017
100m back – 59.11 – 8/24/2017
100m back – 59.11r – 8/28/2017
Short Course NAGs:
100y back – 51.30 – 10/22/2017
Long Course NAGs:
100m back – 59.11 – 8/24/2017
100m back – 58.95 – 8/24/2017
Smith finished 2017 with the year’s fastest 100/200y back, 100/200m back, and 100m fly. She was 2nd in the 200y fly, 3rd in the 500y free, 4th in the 100y fly, 5th in the 200m IM, and 7th in the 200m free and 400y IM. Her 100y back and 100m back both top the all-time top-100 lists for 15-16 girls, and her 200y back and 200m back rank third.
Alex Walsh – Nashville Aquatic Club, Nashville, Tennessee
Walsh is coming off an incredible 2017, which she capped off with a pair of National Age Group Records at 2017 Winter Junior Nationals – East. The highly versatile Walsh won the 100/200y back, 100y breast, and 200y IM, and was third in the 50/100y free, in Knoxville. Her 100 breast and 200 IM wins both broke combined East/West meet records as well as 15-16 NAGs, and she logged personal bests in the 50 free, 50/100/200 back, 100 breast, and 200 IM.
Walsh began her assault on the record books on Thursday night of Winter Juniors. There she ripped a 1:54.02, squeaking by Dagny Knutson’s 2008 national mark by .01 and beating her own meet record of 1:54.48 by .46. The next night she crushed her own NAG record in the 100 breast, which she had established at 2016 Winter Juniors with 58.80. This time she took it to a whole new level, going 58.19 for the 16th-fastest swim of all-time.
Short Course NAGs:
200y IM – 1:54.02 – 12/7/2017
100y breast – 58.19 – 12/8/2017
Walsh doesn’t turn 17 until next August, which leaves her plenty of time to do more damage in the 15-16 record books. She currently ranks #1 all-time in the 100y breast and 200y IM, #2 in the 100y back, #4 in the 200y back and 200y breast, #15 in the 50y free, #19 in the 200y free, and #26 in the 100y free. She is also 8th in the 200m IM, 11th in the 100m back, 13th in the 200m back, 27th in the 100m breast, and 55th in the 50m free.
- Zoe Bartel – Fort Collins Area Swim Team (CO): Bartel won a gold medal in the 200m breast and a bronze in the 100m breast while representing Team USA at the 2017 Junior World Championships in Indianapolis. The National Age Group record-holder in the girls 15-16 200y breast, she aged out of the category ranked 1st in the 200y breast, 2nd in the 100/200m breast, 4th in the 100y breast, 20th in the 200m IM, and 42nd in the 200y IM. She turned in the year’s top 15-16 performances in the 200y breast, and 100/200m breast and was 2nd in the 200m IM, 3rd in the 100y breast, and 10th in the 200y IM. After turning 17 she won both the 100/200y breast at Winter Juniors West, establishing a West meet record in the former and a combined meet record in the latter.
Carson Foster – Mason Manta Rays, Cincinnati, Ohio
2017 marked the ascent of Carson Foster into the Big Leagues. Throughout most of the year he was just 15, but he proved to be one of the biggest stars on Team USA. Coming off a strong 2016 Winter Juniors, in which he was an A-finalist in the 200/400y IMs, Foster proceeded to rise through the ranks, meet by meet. He won nearly all the events he swam at ISCA Junior National Championship Cup in March, then finaled in the 100/200 back and 200/400 IM at U.S. Nationals and World Championship Trials, earning a spot on Team USA for 2017 Junior World Championships in Indianapolis. He won the 100/200 back and 200/400 IM at Summer Junior Nationals in August, which was his tune-up meet for Junior Worlds. There, he earned a gold and two silvers in the 4×100 medley relay, 4×200 free relay, and 200m back, respectively. His 1:57.87 in the 200 back was a best time by 1.26 seconds and represented a 10-second drop year-over-year.
Foster notched PBs in the 50/200y free, 50/100/200y back, 200y fly, and 200/400y IM at Winter Juniors East, where he won the 200 back and 200 IM and was runner-up in the 400 IM, 3rd in the 100 back, 6th in the 50 free, and 7th in the 200 fly.
With 9-plus months to go in the age category, Foster currently ranks 2nd all-time in the 200y back, 200y IM, and 400y IM. He is 3rd in the 200y free and 200m back, 6th in the 100y back, 200m fly and 200m IM, 8th in the 100m back, 9th in the 400m IM, 11th in the 200m free, 15th in the 100m free, 26th in the 100m fly, and 37th in the 50y free and 200y fly.
Foster had the top swims of the year for 15-16 boys in the 200y back, 200/400y IM, 100/200m back, 200m fly, and 200m IM. He was #2 in the 200y free, #3 in the 200m free, 100m fly, and 400m IM, #4 in the 100y back, #5 in the 100m free, #7 in the 50y free, and #10 in the 200y fly.
Jake Foster – Mason Manta Rays, Cincinnati, Ohio
Maybe there’s something in the water in Cincinnati; maybe it’s genetics. Carson Foster’s brother Jake Foster had a huge 2017 in his own right. Still 16 through the end of the summer, he was the top breast/IMer of the age group. At 2017 Summer Juniors he won the 400m IM, was runner-up in the 200m IM, and placed 3rd in the 200m breast, 4th in the 100m breast, and 6th in the 200m fly. He signed the year’s top 15-16 performances in the 100/200m breast and 400m IM, and was #2 200m IM, #3 200y breast, #4 200m fly, #5 400y IM, #8 100y breast, and #10 500y free and 200y IM.
Foster left the 15-16s with all-time top-10 swims in the 100m breast (8th), 200m breast (4th), 200m IM (9th), and 400m IM (4th). Since moving into the 17-18s he has already cracked the top-30 all-time in the 100/200y breast and 200/400y IM, having won the 200y breast and A-finaled in the 100y breast, 200y fly, and 200/400y IM at 2017 Winter Juniors East.
In no particular order:
- Drew Kibler – Carmel Swim Club (IN): Kibler broke the only boys’ 15-16 NAG of the year. In prelims of the Indiana High School Boys’ State Championships, he cracked a 1:33.30 to down the National Public High School Record, the Indiana State Record, and the National Age Group Record for 15-16 boys. Kibler aged up in March, but no one passed him in 2017 in the 100/200y free and 100/200/400m free. In addition to the 200y free NAG, Kibler left the 15-16s with the 500y free record and was ranked 2nd all-time in the 100y free and 200m free, 3rd in the 100m free, 5th in the 50y free and 50m free, 16th in the 400m free, and 20th in the 100m back.
- Ross Dant – Hickory Foundation YMCA Seahorse Swim Team (NC): Dant has established himself as one of the top distance freestylers in the cohort. He won the 500/1000/1650 free at 2017 YMCA Short Course Nationals, and the 400m free at Long Course YNats this summer, where he was also 2nd in the 200m free and 200m fly, 3rd in the 200m back, and 8th in the 100m back. At 2017 Winter Juniors East, he went lifetime bests in the 200/500/1650y free, 200y fly, and 400y IM, and placed 4th in the 500, 2nd in the 1650 free and 8th in the 400 IM. He has top-10 all-time performances for 15-16 boys in the 800m free, 500/1000/1650y free, and is 20th in the 1500m free, 36th in the 400m free, and 60th in the 400y IM.
- Jack Dolan – Rockwood Swim Club (MO): Dolan wrapped up an outstanding 2017 with a pair of national titles at Winter Juniors West. There, he won the 200y free and 100y back and was runner-up in the 50y free, earning PBs in all three events. Dolan moved up the ranks throughout the year, and now ranks in the top-20 all-time for 15-16s in the 50/100/200m free, 100m back, 50/100/200y free, 100/200y back, and 100y fly.