There have been a lot of great high school swimmers the past few years. Jimmy Feigen, Vlad Morozov, Cole Cragin, and Kyle Whitaker, just to name a few.
But Hershey, Pennsylvania’s David Nolan is at a level that no high school swimmer has ever touched, and possibly might not ever touch again. Next year, when Nolan enrolls at Stanford, he’d probably place top 3 in every NCAA event, and could win maybe two-thirds of them. That’s no exaggeration.
Coming into this race, Nolan already held the National High School Record at 1:43.43. Given that in 2010, it only took a 1:42.95 to win NCAA’s, Nolan probably would’ve been happy to break that mark. Not so. No high school swimmer has ever gone a 1:42 IM, and this is still true, because Nolan blasted all the way through to win in 1:41.39. That means that in exactly 1-year, he cut 2 seconds off of his OWN National Record time. The rate of improvement he’s shown from an already elite level is unbelievable. That time makes him the 4th-fastest IM’er ever (and 8th-fastest swim ever) behind only a “so-so” list of Ryan Lochte, Bradley Ally, and Michael Phelps. Amazing.
Video courtesy of Youtube user Shoebaca
His impressive prowess in the 200 IM should be a strong indicator of his impressive versatility, but in case it wasn’t, he decided to prove it on the 2nd day of the meet. On Day 2, he won the 100 backstroke in 45.49, which cut more than a second off of Cole Cragin’s National Record of 46.75 set in polyurethane in 2009. It also would have ranked as the second-fastest seed time at NCAA’s this year.
But he’s not just an individual guy. Nolan is also a great “team player,” with some awesome relay splits. On Day 1, in the 200 free relay, he led-off in finals in 19.58, which just missed the National Record of 19.43. In the 400 free relay, he wasn’t “just missing” anything. He led of Nolan’s relay with a mark of 42.34. Remember Vlad Morozov last year, and how he was the “next big thing” in sprinting? Nolan broke his high school mark of 42.87 just one year later by half-a-second. On that relay, Hershey just missed setting the National Record with a time of 3:00.71, though they gave the fans in attendance at Bucknell University a thrill, as they bettered the “National Record” that was incorrectly listed on the psych sheets.
(Note: Hershey’s 200 free relay also crushed the National Record in the 200 free relay by over a second, with a time of 1:21.01. The previous mark was set by Glenbrook South High School in 2009 by a relatively unknown group of sprinters: Dominik Cubelic, Ryan Bach, Ben Hengels, and Chris Delett. But this points to not only how good Nolan is, but what an impressive program Hershey has put together).
The big debate is whether or not he’s improving fast enough to make the 2012 Olympic Team. At the clip at which he’s improving, and the records he’s breaking, if anyone’s ever made the Olympic team at 19, Nolan can. His biggest dilemma is that in his best events, the backstroke, and IM’s, he’s stuck behind some of the greatest swimmers the world has ever seen. If he’s going to do it, I think his best shot in an individual will be to sneak in behind Michael Phelps in the 100 fly. This is an event that he didn’t swim in high school, but he was ranked 50th in the world in that event last season long course in 53.05. It’ll be tough to catch Tyler McGill though, who’s settling into his long-course-focus and was second-best in the world last year.
He also has a great shot at being a morning-relay swimmer. He went a 50.99 at Jr. Pan Pac’s last season, but has obviously made huge strides since then. He should be at least at a 49 this summer, and by Olympic Trials (when he’ll have a year of training at Stanford) he could easily be a 48-mid.
But man, did Skip Kenney land himself one heck of a freshman for next year. Nolan makes Stanford automatic NCAA contenders. Kenney’s toughest job next season will be figuring out exactly where to put this spectacular talent, because there’s really no limit to his talents.