In our new series, Roadmaps – Mapping the Journey of US Swimming Stars, we will explore how modern-day Olympians climbed their way to the top, starting from as early as 8 years old all the way to their elite level today.
How hard was it for you to learn how to swim butterfly? Many age-groupers can initially struggle when learning the rhythm to butterfly given the relatively unnatural motion of the stroke. However, there are the swimmers who seem like they were born to swim fly. As we dive into this Roadmaps installment, you will learn about some of the fastest American women in the 100 fly today.
2017-2020 Olympic Quad: US Women’s 100 FL LCM
|1||Kelsi Dahlia||56.37||2017 World Championships|
|2||Katie McLaughlin||57.23||2019 World Championships|
|3||Regan Smith||57.34||2020 Pro Swim Series – Des Moines|
|4||Torri Huske||57.48||2019 U.S. Open|
|5||Amanda Kendall||57.51||2019 Summer U.S. Nationals|
|5||Kendyl Stewart||57.51||2019 Israel Cup|
|7||Aly Tetzloff||57.70||2019 Summer U.S. Nationals|
|8||Claire Curzan||57.87||2019 Summer U.S. Nationals|
Leading the way is the lone Olympian of the group, Kelsi Dahlia (56.37), by nearly a full second over her nearest competitor, 2018 national runner-up Katie McLaughlin (57.23). Teenagers Regan Smith (57.34) and Torri Huske (57.48) file in as the next-fastest 100 flyers right behind McLaughlin.
Among the veterans of the group are the 2nd and 3rd place finishers at the 2019 U.S. Nationals, Amanda Kendall (57.51) and Aly Tetzloff (57.50), along with 2019 Pan American Games champion Kendyl Stewart (57.51). 15-year-old sprint phenomenon Claire Curzan (57.87) cracked the top 8 American times this past summer, writing herself into the conversation.
Talented Age Groupers
Overall, this group was swimming fly at a proficient level during their 12&U days. Collectively, the group was under 33 seconds in the 50-yard fly at 10 years old and under 28.5 before aging up to the 13-14 age group. Emerging during the mid-2010s were Regan Smith and Claire Curzan, who were well under 30 seconds in the short pool at 10 years old. In the long pool, Smith, Curzan, Kendyl Stewart, and Katie McLaughlin were also under 33 seconds in the 11-12 age group.
Women’s 50 FL: 12&U Times
How each swimmer progressed, in theory, is based on two skills: their butterfly stroke and underwater dolphin kicks. Regan Smith and Claire Curzan both developed stellar underwater skills in their age group days, allowing them to accel early in multiple strokes. Smith is one of three American females who swam under 1:00 in the 100-yard fly at 10 years old. Meanwhile, Curzan was also a young 11 years old when hitting 59-point in the short pool. Aly Tetzloff is another swimmer whose underwaters propelled them throughout their career, as she broke 1:00 SCY by 13 years old.
Contrastingly, Katie McLaughlin and Kendyl Stewart broke 1:10 LCM first before breaking 1:00 SCY, showing long course proficiency in the 11-12 age group. Amanda Kendall just turned 13 when she swam under 1:10 in the long pool, two years before she broke 1:00 in the short pool.
Women’s 100 FL: Ages at Competitive Marks
|Regan Smith||10||Claire Curzan||11|
|Claire Curzan||11||Regan Smith||11|
|Katie McLaughlin||12||Katie McLaughlin||11|
|Kendyl Stewart||12||Kendyl Stewart||11|
|Torri Huske||13||Torri Huske||13|
|Aly Tetzloff||13||Kelsi Dahlia||13|
|Kelsi Dahlia||13||Amanda Kendall||13|
|Amanda Kendall||15||Aly Tetzloff||15|
|Claire Curzan||14||Claire Curzan||14|
|Kendyl Stewart||14||Regan Smith||14|
|Torri Huske||15||Torri Huske||15|
|Regan Smith||15||Katie McLaughlin||16|
|Katie McLaughlin||15||Kelsi Dahlia||18|
|Kelsi Dahlia||18||Kendyl Stewart||18|
|Aly Tetzloff||20||Aly Tetzloff||20|
|Amanda Kendall||21||Amanda Kendall||25|
Curzan and Smith entered their teens as the two fastest 11-12 American females to ever swim the 100-yard fly. Smith first hit 57.43 in 2014 when she was 12, only to be followed up four years later by Curzan (53.95). While Smith was in the 13-14 age group, she swam to a then-NAG of 51.73 in 2016. At the 2019 Raleigh Sectionals, then-14-year-old Curzan raced against Smith, taking down her NAG at 50.64. Smith won the race in 50.45, the 3rd-fastest time ever swum by a 17-18 female.
Below is the race video when Curzan and Smith raced side-by-side. Just a reminder, Smith was 17 and Curzan was 14.
The Ones Who Caught Meagher
For nearly 30 years, Mary T. Meagher reigned as the greatest American age group flyer in history. In 2009, however, Meagher’s 13-14 NAG (59.71) in the 100-meter fly from 1979 was taken down by Kendyl Stewart (59.51). Ten more years later, Claire Curzan took down Stewart’s NAG, shaving it down progressively to a 58.61.
One of the brightest age group swimmers of the mid-2010s was Katie McLaughlin, becoming a very successful freestyler/flyer at the junior international level. In 2015, McLaughlin broke the 17-18 NAG in the 100-meter fly at 57.87, becoming the first 18&U swimmer to swim under Meagher’s lifetime best (57.93). In 2020, Smith slimmed McLaughlin’s mark down to 57.34, crowing herself now as the fastest American junior female to swim the 100-meter fly.
Meagher’s 15-16 NAG still reigned since 1981 until Curzan and Torri Huske had their jabs at the record. At the 2019 Summer U.S. Nationals, Huske finished in 4th at 57.80, eclipsing Meagher’s 57.93 NAG. Curzan was also under the old mark at 57.87.
The two went on to the 2019 World Junior Championships, where Huske won gold in a new NAG while Curzan took bronze behind Belarus’ Anastaysia Shkurdai. In the race video below, Huske and Curzan sandwich Shkurdai from lanes 3-5.
For stroke comparison, here is Meagher’s last 50 of her world record-setting 200-meter fly. At that same U.S. National meet, Meagher set her 15-16 NAG in the 100 fly at 57.93. According to the commentators, Meagher was 16 years old.
In the video, you can almost notice how similar Meagher’s stroke is to Huske’s stroke.
NCAA Stars & Olympic Hopefuls
Her freshman year at Louisville, Kelsi Dahlia placed 4th at the 2014 NCAA Championships in the 100-yard fly. The next year, Dahlia improved to a second-place finish. Her junior year, Dahlia not only improved furthermore to win the 100-yard fly but to become the first woman to break 50 seconds in the 25-yard pool. Her senior year, Dahlia excelled past her former mark again to reset her American/NCAA records in 2016.
Kendyl Stewart had a bright freshman year at USC, winning the Pac-12 title in the 100-yard fly. She improved the next year at the 2014 U.S. Nationals, winning the event and sealing her spot on the 2014 Pan Pacs and 2015 Worlds teams. At the 2015 NCAAs, she capped her college career with a 3rd place finish in the 100 fly.
Dahlia pushed her momentum to the next level at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials, winning the 100-meter fly over the defending Olympic champion, Dana Vollmer. Stewart placed 3rd during the same Trials final, missing out on the Olympic team. While Dahlia didn’t final in the event at the Olympics, she did earn a gold medal from swimming the 400 medley relay in prelims.
Since 2015, Dahlia has been undefeated in the 100-meter fly at the summer U.S. nationals. Notably, Dahlia’s first LCM World medal was at the 2017 World Championships when she took bronze in the 100-meter fly. While she just missed medaling in the 100 fly at the 2019 Worlds, Dahlia has still swum under 56.3s during her leg of the 400 medley relay for the last 2 meets.
Katie McLaughlin was a bright swimmer for Cal in 2015, however, suffered an injury her freshman year that slowed down her collegiate progress. Nevertheless, in 2018, she came back to a 2nd place finish at the 2018 U.S. Nationals, earning spots on the 2018 Pan Pacs and 2019 Worlds teams. Her senior year at Cal, McLaughlin swam up to break 50 seconds in the 100-yard fly and place 3rd at the 2019 NCAAs.
Amanda Kendall had a quiet start in high school, however, she quickly became one of the brightest rising swimmers in college. In 2011, she finished 7th at the NCAAs as a sophomore with LSU. After taking a break, Kendall returned to the pool in 2014, excelling up to the 2016 Olympic Trials’ semi-finals.
Fast forward a few years, Kendall broke out to a 57.87 at 26 years old, writing her name on the top-8 contenders’ list. At the 2019 U.S. Nationals, Kendall stormed to a second-place finish at 57.51, putting her name on the 2019-2020 national team.
Aly Tetzloff also had her quiet start when swimming for Auburn, however, broke out her senior year in 2019. At the 2019 SEC Championships, Tetzloff placed 2nd in the 100-yard fly and took the SEC title in the 100 back. At that year’s NCAAs, Tetzloff placed 5th in the 100 fly, her best individual finish. She then carried the momentum over to 2019 nationals, where she placed 3rd behind Kendall and Dahlia.
Women’s 100 FL SCY: Lifetime Bests
Women’s 100 FL LCM: Progression By Stage
Single Age Progression: Women’s 100 FL LCM (Ages 8-29)
Single Age Progression: Women’s 100 FL SCY (Ages 8-26)
More from the Roadmaps Series:
Up next for the Roadmaps series will be the men’s 100 back, featuring world record-holder Ryan Murphy.
50.35 @ 15 or 26.91 @ 10. I didn’t know you could do that. I couldn’t tell you which one is more impressive.
How about sub-50 at 16
I’m definitely late to this but amazed at how meagher swam those times without goggles??!
Kelsi Dahlia should’ve made that final in Rio. Didn’t someone in the final get suspended for doping?
Chen Xinyi, who had her results stripped after testing positive in Rio.