Ryan Held is a sprint freestyle and butterfly specialist from Springfield, Illinois. He qualified for his first Olympic Games at the 2016 U.S Olympic Trials in a close fought 100 meter freestyle.
Held attended Sacred Heart-Griffin High School where he was a multiple time state champion and record breaker. In his senior year in 2014 he was named Illinois State Swimmer of the Year.
North Carolina State University
Held took his sprinting talents to North Carolina State University where he joined a team of successful sprinters.
As a freshman, Held was a big part of the wolf packs relay success. He was a member of the 200, 400 and 800 freestyle relays that took the ACC championship titles. At the NCAA Championships he was a member of the 400 and 800 yard freestyle relays that placed 2nd to earn All-American honors. He was also named a second team All-American in the 50 and 100 yard freestlye.
At the 2016 NCAA championships Held helped NC State to its first ever relay national title. The wolfpack won the 400 yard freestyle relay and added silvers in the 200 and 800 relays. In his individual events, Held finished 4th in the 100 meter freestyle, 7th in the 50 and 9th in the 200.
At the 2017 NCAA Championships, earned seven out of seven All-American First Team honors while picking up a medal of each color.
Held and his Wolfpack teammates weren’t able to defend their national title in the 400 yard freestyle relay, finishing 7th. They did, however, race to victory in the 800 yard freestyle relay. Held got NC State out in front early with a lead off split of 1:31.37. The rest of the team managed to sustain the lead to take the gold in a new NCAA, U.S. and American record of 6:06.53.
Held won his first individual NCAA medal with a silver in the 50 yard freestyle. He touched in 18.60 seconds behind Florida’s Caeleb Dressel. His final medal came in the 100 yard freestyle. A bronze in 41.21 behind Dressel and Missouri’s Michael Chadwick.
His other All-American swims came in the 100 yard butterfly where he finished 4th in 44.92, and a 4th and 6th place finish in the 200 yard freestyle and medley relays.
Held earned his first international call up at the 2016 Olympic Games in the 400 meter freestyle relay, narrowly missing out on the individual spot. In a close fought finish at the Trials, Held was coming back on Florida’s Caleb Dressel but the touch didn’t go his way. Held finished 3 hundredths of a second behind second place. His third place finish was enough to earn him a spot on the relay in Rio.
2016 Rio Olympics
Making his international debut on the worlds biggest sporting stage, Held helped Team USA to a gold medal in the 400 meter freestyle relay. The Olympic rookie took over from the most successful Olympian of all time, Michael Phelps, for the third leg. Phelps and Caeleb Dressel combined to give Held a one second head start on France who hit the halfway mark in second. Held’s split of 47.73 maintained the lead for USA and Nathan Adrian sealed the win.
As the US national anthem played with Held and his teammates on top of the podium, Held couldn’t hold back his emotions. Tears streamed down his face as his hard work and Olympic champion dream was realized.