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, 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 Wolfpack’s 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 second to earn All-American honors. He was also named a second team All-American in the 50- and 100-yard freestyle.
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 fourth in the 100 freestyle, 7th in the 50, and 9th in the 200.
At the 2017 NCAA Championships, Held 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 leadoff 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 fourth in 44.92, and a fourth and sixth place finish in the 200-yard freestyle and medley relays.
Held got things started off hot at the 2018 NCAA Championships. On Day 1, NC State roared to a new U.S. Open record in the 800 free relay, with Held going second (1:31.09). On Day 2, he was a busy man, first leading off NC State’s second-place 200 free relay (18.56), then touching second individually in the 50 free (18.64), and finally taking fly duty on the second-place 400 medley relay (43.88). On Day 3, Held only had the 100 fly, in which he finished fifth (44.88). On the final day, Held swam the 100 free four times. First in the prelims of the individual 100 free, then in the prelims of the 400 free relay, where the Wolfpack broke an NCAA record by becoming the first team to go 2:44. In finals, Held finished second in the 100 free (41.08) and then led off the 400 free relay (41.05) that broke his own team’s new American and NCAA record (2:44.31).
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 three one-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 world’s 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 place. Held’s split of 47.73 maintained the lead for the 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 were realized.
2017 World University Games
Held competed at the 2017 World Championship Trials in Indianapolis, his highest finish a heartbreaking seventh place in the 100 free, just one spot out from making the World Championship team. That finish did, however, yield him a roster spot on the 2017 World University Games.
On the first night of competition, Held got the ball rolling with teammates Maxime Rooney, Justin Ress, and Justin Lynch to take gold in the 4x100m free relay, where Held split 48.25. On Day 5, Held kept the gold coming with a win in the individual 100m freestyle, touching at 48.36, securing the victory by only .02.
2018 Short Course World Championships
At 2018 Summer Nationals, Held placed eighth in the 100 freestyle, just outside of qualifying for any major international long course meets for the summer of 2018/2019. However, he did end up on the roster for the 2018 Short Course Worlds team, where Held took full advantage of the opportunity given. Held’s first swim was leading off the men’s 4×100 free relay in prelims, where he broke an American record in the 100 free. He didn’t stop there, his swim earning him a spot on six more relay finals, including the 4×100 free (gold), mixed 4×50 free (gold), 4×50 free (gold), 4×200 free (4th), 4×50 medley (silver), and 4×100 medley (gold).