Cancer Survivor, NAG Record-Holder Thomas Smith Verbally Commits to LSU Tigers

Thomas Smith 2014 LSUThomas Smith, who swims at AquaZot Swim Club and Edison High School in Huntington Beach, California, has made a verbal commitment to Louisiana State University. Smith has had an extraordinary last five years living with cancer, but he has continued to shine in the pool throughout it all, and is now planning to begin the next phase of his swimming career as a Tiger.

“I am excited to be a Tiger. I am very thankful for the chance to be part of this team –it’s not just the athletes, but also the students and the surrounding community. And the way the coaches mentor their athletes, both personally and on a competitive level. All of that support surrounding the athlete blew me away.”

What was it the fictional Rocky said about what it takes to win? “… it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward…” In 2009, three months after Smith had surgery to remove lymph nodes damaged by lymphoma, he and his AquaZot teammates Ken Takahashi, Justin Hanson, and Matthew Wong broke the national age group record in the boys 11-12 400y medley relay. Then in 2011 Smith was diagnosed with bone cancer in his leg. Within two weeks he was on another NAG record-breaking relay: the boys 13-14 400y medley relay with Tyler Lin, Justin Hanson and Matthew Wong. In December 2013, Danny Tran, Tyler Lin, Justin Hanson, and Smith broke the both the 15-16 200y and 400y medley relay NAGs.

Individually, Smith is a 2016 Olympic Trials qualifier in the 200m back. His top times are:

200y back: 1:43.71            200m back: 2:02.16
100y back: 49.09               100m back: 57.57
200y IM: 1:49.72               200m IM: 2:08.28
200y free: 1:38.02            200m free: 1:53.42

Smith holds Southern California LSC individual and relay records in every age group, and most recently broke Aaron Peirsol’s boys 15-16 record in the 200 back. At Edison, he holds five school and five Sunset League records and has twice been named league MVP (the only other swimmer to win 2 MVPs was his older brother, Josh – Thomas is hoping to break the tie in his senior season.)

Smith is a nice get for LSU, who have also received verbal commitments from Alex Carson and Tyler Harper this season. In addition to his backstroke and IM contribution, Smith could be valuable on free relays, having split 20.9 and 45.4 on AZOT relays.

AZOT's 2014 NAG record-breaking 200 and 400 medley relay

AZOT’s 2014 NAG record-breaking 200 and 400 medley relay

Although Smith has been at the top of his age group, in Southern California and on a national scale, for years, he told SwimSwam “it’s only a platform for my story:” that you can take knocks and keep moving forward, keep breaking records, and keep rising to the next level. “Geaux Tigers!”

Note: Smith is currently still being treated for bone cancer at Hoag Hospital Huntington/Newport Beach. He is scheduled to have an MRI later this month to see if the cancer is stable. If it becomes malignant, Smith will lose his leg from above the knee.


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8 years ago

What an inspiring story, Anne. As a So Cal Swim Mom, of course I knew who he was and watched him swim. Never once did I know what he was going through. I think swimmers and parents may want to rethink “I’m too tired,” “too much homework” and “I’m not feeling well.”

Mike S.
8 years ago

He’s already made statements. Now he’ll make history. Bless him and his path.

8 years ago

Wow, this guy’s story of courage and strength is so motivating. Met him once before and could see his character, just had no idea all the battles he faced shaped such a strong spirit. Wish him the best, and believe greatness for him!

8 years ago

This kid is awesome. I’m definitely a fan.

8 years ago

Kudos to that young man for living his life to the fullest while battling cancer. He is a great example to all of us!!!

Reply to  Theroadlesstrwavelled
8 years ago

Agreed! Best of luck for a long, healthy, happy, and fun college swimming career!

……and off-topic, that’s an amazingly [email protected] photo of a backstroke launch! Nice shot!!!

About Anne Lepesant

Anne Lepesant

Anne Lepesant is the mother of four daughters, all of whom swam in college. With an undergraduate degree from Princeton (where she was an all-Ivy tennis player) and an MBA from INSEAD, she worked for many years in the financial industry, both in France and the U.S. Anne is currently …

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