Competitor Coach of the Month is a recurring SwimSwam feature shedding light on a U.S.-based coach who has risen above the competition. As with any item of recognition, Competitor Coach of the Month is a subjective exercise meant to highlight one coach whose work holds noteworthy context – perhaps a coach who was clearly in the limelight, or one whose work fell through the cracks a bit more among other stories. If your favorite coach wasn’t selected, feel free to respectfully recognize them in our comment section.
Appointed head coach of the United States boys’ team at the 2023 World Junior Swimming Championships, Ken Heis had a phenomenal month of September that included the Americans finishing atop the medal table in Netanya.
Heis, who also served as an assistant coach on the U.S. squad at the 2019 World Juniors, put one of his swimmers, Jason Zhao, on the team, and he thrived with four medals, including producing a 48.64 anchor leg on the boys’ 400 free relay team that set a new World Junior Record.
Zhao, 16, won two more gold medals on the boys’ 800 free and 400 medley relays, and added a silver on the mixed free relay.
Individually, Zhao placed 8th in the 200 free (1:48.62), having posted a personal best time of 1:48.60 in the semi-finals to move into #4 all-time in the boys’ 15-16 age group. He notably split more than one second faster, 1:47.56, on the 800 free relay.
Overall, Heis led the U.S. boys to 10 medals at World Juniors, including a sweep of the relays, and the Americans as a whole topped the medal table with 15 gold and 33 total medals.
One month prior, Heis coached seven of his Mason Manta Ray swimmers at the U.S. Junior National Championships in Irvine, with both Zhao (boys’ 100 free) and Addie Robillard (girls’ 200 breast) securing Junior National titles. Zhao’s time of 49.39 moved him into #5 all-time in the boys’ 15-16 age group.
Shortly after World Juniors, both Zhao and Robillard were named to the 2023-24 U.S. Junior National Team.
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