arena Swim of the Week: 14-Year-Old Luke Vatev Rattles Heilman’s NAG With 51.21 100 Free

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Disclaimer: Swim of the Week is not meant to be a conclusive selection of the best overall swim of the week, but rather one Featured Swim to be explored in deeper detail. The Swim of the Week is an opportunity to take a closer look at the context of one of the many fast swims this week, perhaps a swim that slipped through the cracks as others grabbed the headlines, or a race we didn’t get to examine as closely in the flood of weekly meets.

Hornet Swim Club’s Luke Vatev was on fire at last weekend’s Duel in the Pool in Indianapolis featuring LSC Zone Teams from Illinois, Indiana and Gulf Swimming going head-to-head.

Vatev, representing Team Illinois, went three-for-three in his individual events, but his headlining performance came in the 100 freestyle.

The 14-year-old put up a time of 51.21, knocking more than two seconds off his personal best time and narrowly missing the National Age Group Record in the boys’ 13-14 age group.

Vatev now sits #2 all-time for 13-14 boys, trailing only Thomas Heilman, who set the NAG Record of 51.12 at the 2021 U.S. Open.

All-Time Performers, U.S. Boys’ 13-14 100 Freestyle (lCM)

  1. Thomas Heilman (Cavalier Aquatics/Piedmont Family YMCA), 51.12 – 2021
  2. Luke Vatev (Hortnet Age Group Swim Club), 51.21 – 2024
  3. Maximus Williamson (North Texas Nadadores), 51.25 – 2021
  4. Michael Andrew (Indie Swimming), 51.30 – 2014
  5. Noel Strauss (Arkansas Dolphins), 51.59 – 1987

Vatev came into the meet with a lifetime best of 53.49, set in July 2023. He followed up his massive best time, set Saturday morning, by swimming a time of 51.35 later the following day in a mixed time trial.

Split Comparison

Vatev, July 2023 Vatev, June 2024 (1) Vatev, June 2024 (2)
25.46 24.08 24.31
53.49 (28.03) 51.21 (27.13) 51.35 (27.04)

The swim also marked a new Illinois State record.


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Vatev also scored a new personal best and state record in the 200 free, engineering a seismic drop from 1:58.11 to 1:53.16, launching him up to 5th all-time in the boys’ 13-14 age group.

All-Time Performers, U.S. Boys’ 13-14 200 Freestyle (lCM)

  1. Luka Mijatovic (Pleasanton Seahawks), 1:49.63 – 2024
  2. Thomas Heilman (Cavalier Aquatics/Piedmont Family YMCA), 1:51.27 – 2021
  3. Maximus Williamson (North Texas Nadadores), 1:53.04 – 2021
  4. Owen Ekk (Area Tallahassee Aquatic Club), 1:53.15 – 2023
  5. Luke Vatev (Hortnet Age Group Swim Club), 1:53.16 – 2024

Vatev also set a new PB in the 200 back (2:09.09) as Team Illinois won the meet over Gulf Swimming and Team Indiana.

Training under coach Andy Sheely with the Hornet Swim Club, based in Downers Grove, Ill., Vatev’s long course swims come on the heels of him breaking five Illinois LSC Records in the short course pool in March.

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James Beam
1 month ago

wow. Noel Strauss. Have not heard that name in ages! Anyone recall where he swam in college?

Reply to  James Beam
1 month ago


Reply to  James Beam
1 month ago

Michigan I believe

Foreign Embassy
Reply to  James Beam
1 month ago

I just remember he was on LRRC (Little Rock Racquet Club) as an age grouper

1 month ago

Noel Strauss (Arkansas Dolphins), 51.59 – 1987

51.5 in the 100 free in 1987 is Chas Morton – esque.

Josh Bey
1 month ago

That’s my son!

1 month ago

He was also apart of HC winning high school state team. Knew he was already fast in SCY but had no idea how well he would translate to LCM when does he age up?

Last edited 1 month ago by PFA
Reply to  PFA
1 month ago

Looks like he ages up soon, June/July

Reply to  PFA
1 month ago

July 1 he’ll turn 15. Tune in the last weekend of June where he’ll be competing in a P/F meet with his last chance at 13-14 swims.

Reply to  Coach
1 month ago

Well looks like one last shot at the record books excited to see if another Illinois stud can make some extra loud noise here I’ll be keeping my eye on this kid.

Swimmy Jimmy
1 month ago


About James Sutherland

James Sutherland

James swam five years at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, specializing in the 200 free, back and IM. He finished up his collegiate swimming career in 2018, graduating with a bachelor's degree in economics. In 2019 he completed his graduate degree in sports journalism. Prior to going to Laurentian, James swam …

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