Dolfin Swim(s) of the Week: 13-Year-Old U.S. Olympic Trials Qualifiers

Disclaimer: Dolfin Swim of the Week is not meant to be a conclusive selection of the best overall swim of the week, but rather one Featured Swim to be explored in deeper detail. The  Dolfin Swim is an opportunity to take a closer look at the context of one of the many fast swims this week, perhaps a swim that slipped through the cracks as others grabbed the headlines, or a race we didn’t get to examine as closely in the flood of weekly meets.

With all due respect to Caeleb Dressel‘s 50.3 100 fly, we’re going to highlight some less-publicized swims with this week’s spotlight. (We’re sure Dressel won’t mind too terribly, as he’s already won enough of these “of the week/month” awards to fill many mantlepieces).

13-year-olds Leah Hayes and Jillian Cox became two of the three youngest U.S. Olympic Trials qualifiers of the 2020 cycle – and recent history suggests the youngest qualifiers are worth more than a passing footnote.

First, the specifics for Hayes and Cox. Hayes competes for the Fox Valley Park District Riptides of Illinois. She went 4:50.99 in the 400 IM, getting under the Olympic Trials cut of 4:51.79 and is the youngest of the three 13-year-olds currently qualified. Cox swims for Austin Trinity Aquatic Club of Texas. She went 4:16.27 in the 400 free, sneaking under the Olympic Trial cut of 4:16.89.

Sure, a 14-year-old actually making the U.S. Olympic team is pretty rare. But the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials featured 8 girls who qualified as 13-year-olds. (5 of them aged up to 14 by the time Trials actually happened, which will be the case for Hayes and Cox). Of those seven, three have already found their way onto top U.S. travel teams just three years later.

2016 U.S. Olympic Trials – Qualifiers who were 13 at some point in 2016

Swimmer Age at 2016 Trials 2016 Trials finishes
2019 Travel Team?
Tristen Ulett 13 80th (100 back), 115th (100 fly)
Phoebe Bacon 13 83rd (100 back) Pan American Games
Gretchen Walsh 13 125th (50 free)
Ellie Andrews 13 114th (100 breast)
Ella Nelson 14 55th (400 IM), 61st (200 breast), 75th (200 IM), 102nd (100 breast)
Alex Walsh 14 11th (200 back), 12th (100 back), 46th (200 IM) Pan American Games
Regan Smith 14 13th (100 back), 33rd (200 back), 81st (100 fly)
World Championships
Isabel Gormley 14 84th (400 IM)
Abby Arens 14 54th (200 breast), 61st (100 breast)

This time around, Hayes is the youngest current qualifier. Maggie Wanezek of Elmbrook Swim Club in Wisconsin comes next, holding a 1:02.32 in the 100 back from earlier this year that is below the 1:02.69 Olympic Trial cut. Then it’s Cox.

As of right now, Hayes is ranked roughly 39th in the 400 IM among Americans over the Olympic Trials qualifying period (from last December through today). Wanezek is ranked about 40th, and Cox ranked about 50th.


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Mediocre Swammer

Didn’t Gretchen Walsh swim at the 2016 trials at 13?


There are several names missing from this list – as I recall there were almost 20 swimmers under the age of 15 at 2016 trials. Kids keep getting faster though, so my guess is there will be many more then 20 this time around…


Is this healthy and good for the sport to bloom at such a tender age? How many of these early bloomers burned out and/or injured out later?


if your going to swim you might as well swim fast. Hopefully these young ones are not doing doubles every day.


Doing doubles is not bad. I’ve trained doubles since I was 11.


Lots of fast 12-14 years end up remaining fast, healthy, and happy swimmers throughout their college careers.


12 year old in Canada put down a 4:50.21 400IM LCM in April. These girls all crazy fast!

About Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson swam for nearly twenty years. Then, Jared Anderson stopped swimming and started writing about swimming. He's not sick of swimming yet. Swimming might be sick of him, though. Jared was a YMCA and high school swimmer in northern Minnesota, and spent his college years swimming breaststroke and occasionally pretending …

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