High Schoolers Return to US Squad on Day 1 of US Nats

by Robert Gibbs 3

June 27th, 2017 News


For all of the talk about swimmers peaking at a young age, it is still relatively rare for current high schoolers to make major long course US international teams.  Yet, tonight, Dakota Luther and Robert Finke all but assured themselves places on the US roster for Budapest with 2nd place finishes in the 200 fly and 1500 free, respectively.

While they won’t be officially added to the roster until it’s guaranteed there are enough roster spots to accommodate all 2nd place finishers in the Olympic events, it is virtually a certainty that they will make the team.

Now, it’s not entirely unheard of for high school aged swimmers to make major international long course meets, especially female swimmers.  Women like Katie Ledecky, Missy Franklin, and Simone Manuel represented the US fairly regularly at World Champs and/or the Olympics over the past quad, before they entered college.  Elizabeth Beisel made the 2007 World Championships team at the age of 14.  The further you go back into the annals of swimming, the more examples there are.

And sure, Michael Andrew did win a gold medal in the 100 IM at last winter’s short course world championships.  However, the US rarely sends all — perhaps not even most — of its top swimmers to compete in those meets, so those rosters are diluted, and the short course world champs don’t carry quite the same prestige as their long course cousins.

But still, no high school-aged swimmer made the 2016 USA Olympic team, the first time that hadn’t happened in many years, to say the least since 1900. Four high school female swimmers made the 2015 FINA World Championships, six made the 2014 Pan Pacific Championships team, and there were three each on the 2013 World Champs and 2012 Olympic teams.  So, it was pretty noticeable last year when every member of the USA Olympic squad was at least a year removed from their high school days.

Finke, meanwhile, is poised to become the first male high schooler to make a major international long course meet for the US since 2009.  That year, Andrew Gemmell (open water) and Brennan Morris (1500) were 18 years old and recent high school graduates, while Sean Ryan (open water) was only 16 years old.

Luther is the daughter of Whitney Hedgepeth, who qualified for her first Olympic games at the age of 17 in 1988, and went on to win gold in the 4×100 medley and two silver medals in the backstrokes at the 1996 Olympics.

With another four days to come, several other high schoolers have at least an outside chance at making the US squad, including — but not limited to — Eva Merrell, Drew Kibler, Alex Walsh, Reece Whitley, among many others, potentially giving the young guns of Team USA some crucial experience for this next quad.

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The NV

Cathryn Salladin and Simon Lamar are two 17 year olds who will also be competing at the World Championships this summer in the 25K. Congratulations thus far to the youngsters making a huge international team! Excited for what the rest of the meet has in store!


Dakota Luther is making her own path and way forward in swimming. She committed to UGA this summer and now on her way to Worlds. Mom, Whitney made 88 Olympics in 2IM at 17 and later won gold and 2 silvers in 96. Whitney swam at FL and UT. Dakota is charting her own course in swimming, but mom by her side giving great encouragement! For sure she has good genes but having had the pleasure of training with Dakota a bit in our masters practices, she is very driven and goal oriented and never backs down from a challenge! I am so happy for her! Go Dakota!

2016 was the first Olympic team without an 18 & Under swimmer since 1900. https://swimswam.com/its-been-116-years-since-the-u-s-has-had-no-18-unders-on-olympic-swim-team/

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