2018 Honorees: Regan Smith and Gianluca Urlando
Regan Smith – Riptide Swim Team (Apple Valley, Minnesota)
Regan Smith earns her second consecutive Swammy Award in this age group after a stellar 2018. Not only did she break records left and right, but Smith blew away the competition in heretofore “off” events, as well. Smith began the year by lowering her own 15-16 National Age Group Record in the 100 back (previously 51.30, set at the USA College Challenge in October 2017) twice at Akron Sectionals. She went 51.28 in prelims and 50.84 in finals, becoming the youngest sub-51 swimmer in history. At the same meet, Smith broke the 200 back NAG, knocking 3 full seconds off her previous PB to log a 1:48.30 in the record books, the fastest 15-16 performance by over 2.3 seconds, and the 4th-fastest performance of all time behind Kathleen Baker, Elizabeth Pelton, and Missy Franklin.
This summer Smith earned her first national title in the 200m backstroke at Phillips 66 Nationals, tying for first with Kathleen Baker (2:06.43) and punching her ticket to 2018 Pan Pacific Championships. At Pan Pacs she finished 3rd in the 200 back (2:06.46) to earn her first major international medal.
Smith closed out 2018 at Winter Juniors West in Austin, Texas, where she lowered her own 100y back NAG by another 0.26, going 50.58 to lead off Riptide’s 400 medley relay. Smith now ranks 16th all-time in the event among swimmers of any age. Two days later she broke a 37-year-old NAG in the 200y fly set by Mary T. Meagher in 1981. Smith clocked a 1:51.24 to win the event at the West meet, which took a full 1.75 seconds off the old 15-16 NAG, downed the meet record (of 1:54.37 set by Ella Eastin in 2014), and came within .20 of Eastin’s 17-18 NAG. Smith’s performance was the fastest 200 fly in the United States for all ages for the current swim year, and it ranks her #7 all-time. Smith went on to win the 200 free (breaking the meet record with a PB of 1:43.27) and the 500 free (breaking the meet record with a PB of 4:37.10), and she went a lifetime best in the 50 free (22.64) leading off the 200 free relay.
With a few months left before she ages out of the 15/16s, Smith has 17 all-time top-100 rankings. In SCY, she is #58 in the 50 free, #22 in the 100 free, #4 in the 200 free, #6 in the 500 free, #1 in the 100 back, #1 in the 200 back, #3 in the 100 fly, #1 in the 200 fly, #12 in the 200 IM, and #94 in the 400 IM. LCM rankings include #94 in the 200 free, #77 in the 400 free, #1 in the 100 back, #3 in the 200 back, #4 in the 100 fly, #2 in the 200 fly, and #39 in the 200 IM.
Alex Walsh – Nashville Aquatic Club (Nashville, Tennessee): Alex Walsh aged up to the 17/18s in August but not before leaving her mark one more time on the 15/16s. Swimming at the Southern Premier Meet in March, she lowered the National Age Group Record in the 200y breast by more than a second, coming to the wall in 2:06.45. That broke Zoe Bartel‘s NAG mark of 2:07.73 from 2016 and made Walsh one of the top-25 performers in history in that event.
At Phillips 66 Nationals, her last meet as a 16-year-old, Walsh placed 6th in the 200m IM, 7th in the 50m back, 9th in the 200m back, and earned a spot on the U.S. Junior Pan Pacific Championships Team. There she earned a pair of gold medals in the 200 IM and as a member of the 4×100 free relay, won the consolation final in the 100 back, placed 10th in the 100 free, and improved her PBs in the 100 free, 200 free and 100 back.
Walsh left the age group with NAGs in the 100y breast, 200y breast, and 200y IM. She further ranks #5 in the 50y free, #29 in the 100y free, #20 in the 200y free, #4 in the 100y back, #6 in the 200y back, #63 in the 50m free, #24 in the 100m free, #11 in the 100m back, #7 in the 200m back, #32 in the 100m breast, #43 in the 200m breast, and #6 in the 200m IM.
- Phoebe Bacon – Nation’s Capital Swim Club: Phoebe Bacon, who was still 15 through the end of July, was one of the top backstrokers and IMers of 2018, in an age group that boasts the best backstrokers and IMers in history (see above!). As a sophomore at Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart, she kicked of the year with double victories in the 100 fly (52.91) and 100 breast (1:02.02) at Washington Metros, breaking the Metro record in the former. She then raced at NCSA Spring Championship where she won the 50 back and was an A-finalist in the 100/200 back, 50 fly and 100/200 IM and a B-finalist in the 50/100 breast. At Phillips 66 Nationals, she touched 4th in the 100 back, 9th in the 50 back, and 18th in the 200 back and qualified for Junior Pan Pacs. In Fiji she won the 100m back and led off the gold medal-winning women’s 400 medley and mixed 400 medley relays, both of which set meet records. She also won the B final of the 200 back with the second-fastest time of the meet. Bacon wrapped up the year at NCAP Invitational in December, notching PBs in the 50/100 free, 100 back, 100 breast, and 200/400 IM.
- Gretchen Walsh – Nashville Aquatic Club (Nashville, Tennessee): At just 15, Gretchen Walsh broke the 15-16 National Age Group Record in the 50 free at the Southern Premier Meet in March. She became the youngest girl ever to break the 22-second barrier, blazing to a 21.85 to win the final (edging her sister Alex, who placed 2nd with 22.08). A freshman at Harpeth Hall High School, Walsh swam at Tennessee High School Championships in February and opened her prep career with a pair of individual wins in the 50 free (22.26, a state record) and 100 back (52.85), and a pair of team wins in the 200 medley and 200 free relays. This summer she competed at Phillips 66 Nationals, placing 8th in the 50 free and 8th in the 100 free and earning a spot on the U.S. Junior Pan Pacific Championships Team. There, she won the 100m free with a new meet record, was runner-up in the 50m free, and was on 4 gold medal-winning relays: women’s 4×100 free, women’s 4×200 free, women’s 4×100 medley, and mixed 4×100 medley.
Gianluca Urlando – DART Swimming (Davis, California)
2018 was a year of great upheaval in the 15-16 boys’ record books. Gianluca Urlando and Carson Foster were both prolific record-breakers but Urlando took down Michael Phelps’ seemingly-untouchable National Age Group Record in the 200y butterfly, thus tipping the scales in his favor for the Swammy.
Urlando was on fire all year. In March he established himself as the top butterflyer in his cohort at College Station Sectionals. He won the 100 fly (46.93) and was runner-up in the 200 fly (1:43.55), dropping significant amounts of time in both events from the previous year and posting the top times of his age group. He also won the 200/400 IM at that meet, placed 2nd in the 200 back, and was 3rd in the 100 back. In May he showed his versatility by adding best times in the 50/100 free, and 100 back, and lowering his 100 fly PB, at the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Championships.
Urlando really made his mark over the summer. At Phillips 66 Nationals, he lit the pool on fire in the very first event. In prelims of the 200 fly he dropped 2.92 seconds to vault into the A final, qualifying 6th with 1:56.01. That night he dropped another 0.80 and touched third, tied with Jack Conger in a time of 1:55.21. He also placed 18th in the 100 fly (52.48) and earned PBs in the 100/200 back. Urlando made the U.S. Team for Junior Pan Pacific Championships where he won gold medals in the 100 fly (52.40), 200 fly (1:56.25), men’s 400 medley relay, and mixed 400 medley relay (meet record). He was runner-up in the 200 IM (2:00.60) and he finished the meet with PBs in the 200 free, 100 fly, and 200 IM. His 100 fly time was the fastest-ever swum by an American in the 15-16 age group.
The icing on the cake came at Winter Juniors West in December. There he broke National Age Group Records 5 times, took down a meet record (200 fly), and finished the meet with 4 gold medals and PBs in the 50/200 free, 100/200 back, 100/200 fly, and 200 IM. Urlando kick off his assault on the record books with a 45.97 in the 100 fly in the morning of Day 3, becoming the youngest sub-46 flyer in history. In finals he lowered the mark to 45.62, then added a 45.66 NAG in the 100 back. The following day he erased Michael Phelps’ 2002 NAG in the 200 fly (1:42.10), winning the event by nearly 4 seconds with 1:40.91. He also led off DART’s 800 free relay (with Connor Daniels, Tate Cutler, and Chris Ranlett), which broke the 15-16 NAG with 6:38.07.
With a couple of months left before he turns 17, Urlando has all-time rankings in the SCY 50 free (18th), 100 free (53rd), 200 free (4th), 100 back (1st), 200 back (5th), 100 fly (1st), 200 fly (1st), 200 IM (3rd), and 400 IM (18th). In LCM he is ranked #10 in the 200 free, #27 in the 100 back, #20 in the 200 back, #2 in the 100 fly (#1 American), #2 in the 200 fly, #4 in the 200 IM, and #25 in the 400 IM.
Foster began 2018 with twin victories at the Ohio State Division I High School State Championships. The Sycamore High School sophomore won the 200 free (with a state record of 1:34.19) and the 500 free (4:20.21). At Phillips 66 Nationals, he placed 7th in the 200 back and 10th in the 200 IM. He also finaled in the 100 back (19th) and 100 free (28th) and finished the meet with PBs in the 100 free, 100/200 back, and 200 IM. Foster broke the 15-16 National Age Group Record in the 200 IM twice in Irvine. He knocked out a 1:59.71 in prelims to erase Andrew Seliskar’s 2013 mark of 1:59.84. In finals he dropped another .26 to go 1:59.45.
Foster made the U.S. Junior Pan Pacific Championships Team and headed to Fiji. There he continued his record-breaking streak, beginning with the 200m free. Foster, who hadn’t broken the 2:00 barrier coming into the meet, went 1:49.07 in prelims, then 1:48.57 in finals to take .07 off Caeleb Dressel’s 15-16 NAG of 1:48.64 from 2013. The next day he broke the 400 IM NAG twice. In prelims he erased Michael Phelps’ 2001 mark of 4:15.20 with 4:14.92. Then he lowered his own record in finals with 4:14.73.
Foster also contributed to Mason Manta Rays’ NAG records in the 200y free relay (1:22.51 with Adam Chaney, Scott Sheperd, and Jacob McDonald) and the 200y medley relay (1:28.85 with Ian Van Gorp, Jacob McDonald, and Adam Chaney).
Foster left the age group this fall with all-time SCY rankings of #50 in the 50 free, #19 in the 100 free, #3 in the 200 free, #21 in the 500 free, #7 in the 100 back, #2 in the 200 back, #73 in the 100 fly, #41 in the 200 fly, #4 in the 200 IM, and #2 in the 400 IM. In LCM he ranks #6 in the 100 free, #1 in the 200 free, #81 in the 400 free, #7 in the 100 back, #3 in the 200 back, #29 in the 100 fly, #7 in the 200 fly, #1 in the 200 IM, and #1 in the 400 IM.