This past weekend in Fishers, Indiana, USA National Team butterfly specialist, Tyler McGill, raced Michael Andrew after a Fitter and Faster Swim Tour event. Andrew, who just turned thirteen, had been looking forward to the race since Tyler posted a video offering Michael the opportunity to go head-to-head.
“I saw that this kid was breaking national age group record after record, and I thought it’d be fun,” Tyler explained on deck moments before the race.
The Fishers High School pool started Michael’s record run. He broke the first three at the Santa Claus Invitational back in December, 2011. Before he turned thirteen, Michael had twenty 11&12 NAG records under his belt.
Michael is tall. That’s the first thing you notice about him. He’s over six feet. His father and coach is 6’5, and his mother, Tina, is 6’2. “His growth plates are wide,” his father said. “He’s going to be tall. How tall? We don’t know, but he’s going to grow a lot more.”
While tall, Michael’s still very much a kid, long and stringy, elbows and collar-bones protruding, all sharp edges. He’s definitely got more development ahead of him.
The Andrew family, fresh off a vacation in Florida, was low-key as Michael and Tyler talked on deck.
“We’re going to race a 50 fly,” Tyler said, turning around, “a 25 free, and…”
“And we’re going to race a 25 breast,” Michael chimed in, smiling.
I asked Michael if he’d done his research, if he knew breast was not Tyler’s strongest stroke.
“No,” Michael shrugged. “I just like it.”
Tyler grinned. “It’s a 25 yard breast. I can do a 25.”
Each race happened in quick succession, almost like a lacate set in practice.
Michael’s 23.80 in the 50 fly was, perhaps, his best swim, only 13 one-hundreds off his best time. Tyler’s 21.67 was not fast, though after a long day of conducting a swimming clinic, he said, “you know, I’ll take it.”
After Michael’s 10.21 in the 25 free, he shook Tyler’s hand, then rolled his head from side-to-side. It was clear he wanted to go faster.
“That’s a little off his best,” his father gently offered. “He’s been a 9.7 in practice, but 25s aren’t the easiest to do… It’s ok, Michael. Good swim.”
Michael smiled, looked at Tyler, then back to us, “His (Tyler’s) underwaters are so fast.”
On deck before the 25 breast, you could see Michael getting ready, focusing. This was it, his last swim. Off the blocks, his reaction time was faster, and it appeared his underwater pullout had a little more ooomph. (I was shooting from underwater with a GoPro.) While Tyler got more distance with his pullout, on the surface Michael stayed with him stroke for stroke.
Tyler almost laughed when he saw his time, 12.61. “That, I think, may be my personal best in the 25 breast.”
As quickly as the races started, they were over and everyone was laughing and joking, discussing where to get a bite to eat. That’s when I noticed that Tyler and Michael has slipped away. They were up in stands, crouched over talking, just the two of them.
“That’s what this was really about,” Michael’s dad said, “a chance to talk and be friends.”