David Nolan is a competitive swimmer who represents the United States internationally.
David Nolan was born to Theresa and James Nolan in Hershey, Pennsylvania and attended Hershey High School. He is well known for completely dominating high school swimming. Let’s start with him leading his team to three state and three district titles. He took down the state and national records in the 100 yard freestyle, 100 yard backstroke, 200 yard individual medley, 200 yard free relay and 200 yard medley relay. His 200 IM (1:41.39) shattered the national record by over two seconds and would have flat-out won the 200 IM had he been racing at the 2011 NCAA Championships. Graduating as a high school phenom, Nolan took his talents to Stanford University, where he is now a junior.
College Swimming (Stanford)
Nolan immediately had a huge impact for The Cardinal, scoring a team-high 50 points at the 2012 NCAA Championships as a freshman. He was named PAC-12 Freshman of the Year after winning the 200 IM, 200 back, and 100 back as well as contributing to wins for Stanford’s 400 medley and 200 and 800 freestyle relays. Individually, he placed 3rd in the 200 IM (1:42.85/1:42.70p) and was runner-up in both the 100 (45.53) and 200 back (1:39.74). Nolan also led off the Cardinal’s 5th place 200 medley relay and 4th place 400 medley relay, and was a member of 5th place 200 and 400 free relays. Nolan was the only freshman in the A or B final of the 200 IM. He became a seven-time All-American after NCAAs.
Nolan’s PAC-12 performance in 2013 did not show a sweep of victories for him as it did in 2012, however he still won the 200 IM and 200 back, the latter of which in a time of 1:40.39 which broke the meet record. Nolan improved upon his IM (his first time going under what he went his senior year of high school) to win the event at NCAAs (1:41.21), and grabbed gold in the 100 (44.99) after just falling short the year before. He also touched the wall in 1:39.31 for 2nd overall in the 200 back. Nolan broke Stanford’s school records in the 200 IM and 200 back, and also swam on the 5th place 400 free relay and 6th place 200 free relay, while both medley relays were disqualified. Despite this, Stanford still placed 7th overall.
With the graduation of many of Stanford’s stars, Nolan led the Cardinal in his junior season. Individually, he defended his 200 IM title (1:41.49) to break the meet record, but couldn’t overcome Cal’s backstrokers to defend his 200 back title or win the 100 back. In the 100, it was freshman phenom Ryan Murphy who edged Nolan 45.59 to 45.66. Murphy won the 200 as well (1:39.21) in a preview of what was to come at NCAAs, where the freshman took gold in both backstroke events. 2nd in the 200 back was Cal’s Jacob Pebley (1:40.38), who just beat out Nolan (1:40.60). Nolan loaded up on relay events, swimming all but the 400 free relay. He led off the 200 and 400 medley relays to 4th place finishes, and led off the 5th place 200 free relay. Perhaps his most impressive relay swim at Pac-12’s came in the 800 free relay, where he split the 2nd fastest time in the entire field (1:32.82). What made this swim so impressive is that Nolan is seen as a backstroker and IMer, with sprint free being his third specialty, and the 200 free is a stretch for most sprint freestylers. This was also Nolan’s first time swimming that relay for the Cardinal in the championship season.
Nobody was catching Florida’s Marcin Cieslak in the 200 IM at NCAA’s, who clocked a 1:40.58, which came very close to breaking NCAA and U.S. Open records. Nolan finished in third (1:41.38) behind IM stalwart Chase Kalisz (1:41.19), although Nolan did have the fastest 50 free split of the field. He touched at 45.21 in the 100 back to grab 4th place, while he finished 3rd in 1:39.17 in the 200 back, a personal best. While Stanford’s medley relays, both of which Nolan led off, were disappointing and unable to finish in the top 16, he swam the second leg of the 13th place 200 free relay and swam another great 2nd leg of the 800 free relay (1:32.89) to propel them to third place in the event. The Cardinal finished 9th overall at NCAA’s.
After leading Stanford to a 9th-place finish at the 2014 NCAA Championships, Nolan returned for the 2014-2015 season as a senior. Although Nolan was focusing his season on the NCAA meet, he broke the American, NCAA and U.S. Open Record in the 200 yard IM at the Pac-12 meet giving him loads of confidence before nationals. In his first event of the NCAA meet, Nolan had qualified 2nd in the preliminaries of the 200 yard IM. He made an adjustment going into finals on his backstroke technique, which Nolan described: “I activated my glutes, a Tiger Woods kind of deal.” The technique paid off because Nolan became the first swimmer in history to break 1:40 seconds in the 200 yard IM, re-breaking his American, NCAA and U.S. Open Records previously set.
After missing out on the championship final in the 400 yard medley relay, Nolan swam the breaststroke leg in the consolation final of the event. Although the squad finished 9th, winning the consolation heat, they would’ve placed 7th had they qualified for the championship final. On day two Nolan went for gold in the 100 yard backstroke. In a heat stacked with excellent sprinters, including California’s sophomore standout Ryan Murphy, Nolan had to get out fast and hold on. He hit the wall at the 50-yard point in 2nd by just hundredths of a second, but was out-swam in his last 50 yards by Murphy to finish 2nd overall. Nolan had a quick turn around to prepare for the 800 free relay. As the third leg on the relay, Murphy gained a huge amount of ground with the fastest split in the entire championship final to lead Stanford to a 3rd place finish.
In Nolan’s last individual event, the 200 yard backstroke, he was up once again against the 100 back winner, Murphy. In the first half of the race Murphy blew the field away splitting a sub-48 second split, and while Nolan hung in there just a second back, Nolan started to hurt the last 50 yards, letting Sean Lehane from Tennessee just narrowly out-touch him for the silver.
The first international meet for Nolan was the 2009 Youth Pan Pacific Championships, where he won the 200 meter IM and was a member of the winning 400 meter medley relay. He then participated in the 2011 US Nationals, finishing 4th in the 200 IM (2:01.14), 12th in the 100 fly (55.53) and 14th in the 100 back (55.21).
2012 Olympic Trials
Nolan did not qualify for the 2012 London Olympics, but he had impressive top 20 finishes in the 100 back and 200 free at 2012 Trials. He gained a few seconds in his IM and ended up 40th.
In the summer of 2013, Nolan competed at US Nationals as well as the US Open. He bounced back from his disappointing Trials finish to place 9th in the 200 IM at Nationals with a new best of 2:00.35, which would’ve placed 6th in the A final, and picked up a 10th place finish in the 100 free, breaking the 50-second barrier (49.97/49.72p). Nolan also finished 11th in the 200 free (1:49.49/1:48.87p). He finished 8th at the US Open in the 200 back (2:03.28) to go with two first place finishes on Stanford’s 400 and 800 free relays. He won the C final of the 100 free in a new personal best of 49.50, and also took the C final of the 100 fly (52.93). In the 100 back, he clocked a 55.07 to win the B final.
At the 2014 US Nationals, Nolan broke the 50-second barrier once more in the 100 free, going 49.89 for 26th place, just missing the C final (although the C final was reserved for 18 and unders). He was also just off the C final of the 200 free, as he touched in 1:50.48 for 27th place. He made the B final of the 100 fly with a quick 52.95 in prelims, but fell to 16th with a time of 53.75 in finals. Nolan had a rough showing in the 200 IM, his signature event in yards, as he gained over four seconds (2:04.84) to finish 42nd.
Move to Tempe
After finishing his senior year in 2015, Nolan decided to move to Tempe to train with, among others, Chase Kalisz, Bob Bowman, and Michael Phelps in preparation for the 2016 Olympic trials.
2016 Olympic Trials
After training in Tempe for a year, Nolan competed at the 2016 Olympic Trials. He placed 12th in the 100 free (49.39), 19th in the 200 free (1:48.83), and 3rd in the 200 IM (1:59.09), finishing only behind Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte.
2019 Return to Competition: “I want to see how close I can get”
In June of 2019, David Nolan announced that he had been working to optimize every aspect of his work and athletic life with his sights set on swimming at Olympic Trials in 2020. He was careful not to call the endeavor a formal comeback, however he did plan to return to racing as well as the drug-testing pool.
–Originally developed by Karl Ortegon