The Progression of Young Trials Swimmers

One of the arguments for a large Olympic Trials is that it gives young swimmers experience at a national level meet. Since 1996 there have been 102 14 and under women and 19 15 and under men who participated in an Olympic Trials. All of them were excellent swimmers, but only a few developed into stars. 4 qualified for the Olympic Team at their first trials (Michael Phelps 2000, Amanda Beard 1996, Beth Botsford 1996, and Jilen Siroky 1996). Of those 4, only Phelps and Beard made another Olympics. 10 more ended up qualifying for the Olympics at a later Trials (Rachel Bootsma 2012,  Caroline Bruce 2004, Missy Franklin 2012, Diana Munz 2000/2004, Dana Vollmer 2004/2012, Kara Lynn Joyce 2004/2012, Lia Neal 2012, Amanda Weir 2004/2012, Rhi Jeffrey 2004, and Matt Grevers 2008/2012).

There were 25 young women and 7 young men at the 2012 Trials. Of the remaining 89 athletes who are old enough to have participated in multiple Trials, 14 have made an Olympic team, but 38 have never cracked the top 24 (some could this year. Kendyl Stewart is tentatively seeded 3rd in the 100 fly).  Any group where 16% makes the Olympic team is pretty elite, but 84% is a pretty high failure rate. As a comparison, there were 673 swimmers at the 2004 trials and there were 44 members of the 2004 Olympic team (60 counting future Olympians at the meet too). That’s 7% of Trials participants (or 9% counting future Olympians).

Since 2000, 127 different athletes have been on the Olympic Team. Of those, 12 (9%) swam at a Trials when they were 14 and under for women or 15 and under for men. In short, few young Trials swimmers make the Olympic Team, and few Olympic Team members swam at Trials when they were young.

Here are all the women who made their Trials debut as a 14 and under. The table includes the swimmer’s age when they first swam at Trials and their highest finish each year they swam at Trials.

2012 2008 2004 2000 1996
Dana Vollmer 12 1 5 1 43
Grace Carlson 12 96 85
Alexi Spann 13 44 13 98
Alisa Finn 13 53 30
Andrea Axtell 13 32 13 21
Annie Zhu 13 9 56
Chelsea Britt 13 59
Chelsea Chenault 13 8 24
Claire Adams 13 33
Diana Munz 13 1 1 14
Erica Liu 13 32 18
Jessica Schmitt 13 32 11 25
Jessie Bailis 13 85
Katie Kinnear 13 24 123
Keaton Blovad 13 63
Kendyl Stewart 13 25 88
Kerri Mcilvain 13 99
Kirsten Groome 13 46
Leah Pronschinske 13 105
Lia Neal 13 4 28
Lindsey Kelly 13 19 88
Madeleine Stanton 13 67
Madison White 13 10 12
Megan Byrnes 13 168
Missy Franklin 13 1 37
Rhiannon Jeffrey 13 4 47
Abigail Chin 14 84 75
Allie Szekely 14 17
Alyssa Marsh 14 145
Amanda Beard 14 5 2 1 2 1
Amanda Weir 14 5 8 3 31
Amy Bilquist 14 64
Angela Goodson 14 57
Annie Babicz 14 37 52
Ashley Wagner 14 26
Ashley Wanland 14 8 26 48
Astrid Swensen 14 85
Becca Mann 14 5
Beth Botsford 14 6 6 1
Bonnie Brandon 14 4 14
Candace Blackman 14 48 11 48
Caroline Bruce 14 2 17
Christine Keller 14 28 26
Courtney Cashion 14 40
Courtney Hanson 14 118
Courtney Kalisz 14 11 11
Courtney Mykkanen 14 37
Dana Christ 14 17 41
Diana Macmanus 14 4
Elaine Schwartz 14 22
Elise Haan 14 136
Elizabeth Hill 14 12 18
Elizabeth Pelton 14 3 13
Emma Nunn 14 20 44
Erica Stock 14 90 72
Erin Emery 14 52
Ginny Johnson 14 22
Haley Lips 14 35 57
Haley McInerny 14 135
Hannah Whiteley 14 135
Hayley Mcgregory 14 3 3 27
Jackie Jeschke 14 113
Jennifer Parmenter 14 3
Jilen Siroky 14 2
Julianne Smith 14 46
Julie Stupp 14 64 8 46 43
Kacey Oberlander 14 52
Kaitlin Harty 14 16
Kara Lynn Joyce 14 2 4 1 75
Karen Turner 14 112 51
Kasey Schmidt 14 138
Katharine Anton 14 106 33
Katherine Drabot 14 76
Kathryn McLaughlin 14 39
Kim Kelly 14 50
Kristen Hastrup 14 24 40
Kristen Shickora 14 13 9 31
Lauren Case 14 61
Lauren Driscoll 14 11 42
Lauren Smart 14 39 85 28
Leah Gingrich 14 8 45
Lindsay Voyles 14 98 38 50
Lindsey Highstrom 14 29
Lindsey Horejsi 14 88
Lindsey Mcknight 14 67 93
Madeline Schaefer 14 35
Mary Pelton 14 78
Mccall Dorr 14 25 35 18
Natalie Beale 14 113 93
Natalie Pike 14 38 52
Rachel Bootsma 14 2 35
Rachel Munson 14 117
Rebecca Rainer 14 19 61
Sarah Nowaski 14 122
Stephanie Carr 14 72 8 33
Stephanie Gabert 14 29
Stephanie Yoshimura 14 49
Susan Gilliam 14 18 47
Tara Thomas 14 23 51
Valerie Tukey 14 58
Vanessa Duenas 14 60
Vicky West 14 35

Here are all the men who made their Trials debut as a 15 and under. The table includes the swimmer’s age when they first swam at Trials and their highest finish each year they swam at Trials.

2012 2008 2004 2000 1996
Max Jaben 14 11 28
Alex Lebed 15 100
Andrew Cosgarea 15 31
Andrew Seliskar 15 18
Caeleb Dressel 15 100
Colin Ellington 15 103
Daniel Madwed 15  7  5 30
Eegan Groome 15 85 61
Henry Campbell 15 76
Justin Lynch 15 18
Kevin Behrens 15 73
Matt Elliott 15 8 52
Matt Grevers 15 1 2 7 61
Michael Phelps 15 1 1 1 2
Nicholas Caldwell 15 18 49
Sean Mahoney 15 13 13
Sean Ryan 15 8 20
Thomas Brewer 15 117
Justin Barber 15 39

A few contenders for this year’s team got 2012 Trials experience that they wouldn’t have with a smaller Trials. Caleb Dressel’s best finish in 2012 was 100th. Andrew Seliskar’s best seed was 50th.

Many of the young swimmers at the 2012 Trials placed outside the top 100 which was rare at Trials before 2012. Only time will tell if these lower ranked elite young swimmers will make the transition to elite senior swimmers at the same rate as their predecessors.

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Coached
5 years ago

Sad how many woman (girls at the time) make it to trials at 13/14 and never make it back. So much for the progression of an athlete.

dmswim
Reply to  Coached
5 years ago

The trend is improving though. There were 7 women in 1996 who never competed at another U.S. Olympic Trials, 8 that competed in 2000 and never again (although Vanessa Duenas began competing for Columbia), only 2 who competed in 2004 never to return (one of whom was Kristen Groome who came very close to making the 2008 Olympic team for open water), and only 3 in 2008 who didn’t compete in 2012 (one of whom, Chelsea Britt, qualified but did not attend and is still swimming today). I think coaches have learned how to better coach young women as to not burn them out and cause early injuries.

Trainwithnogoggles
Reply to  Coached
5 years ago

I would say that it’s just the ” one size fits all”-ness of usa swimming. Some girls peak physically and then can’t do what came so easily as 10-14 year olds. Anyone remember Grace Cornelius?

dmswim
5 years ago

A few notes–Rhi Jeffries made the Olympic team in 2004 (she doesn’t have a trials finish listed). Annie Babicz placed 37th in 2004. While Max Jaben did not compete at the 2008 Trials, he qualified for the Olympics for Israel but was later removed from the team for testing positive for a banned substance. Similarly, Vanessa Duenas began competing for Columbia in 2003 which explains why she didn’t attend any subsequent U.S. Trials.

Agustin Magruder
Reply to  Andrew Mering
5 years ago

Alexi Spann (Lexi) 2004 13th place

More efficient process
Reply to  Andrew Mering
5 years ago

You should just search by last name instead of first and last name then. Or use USA Swimming’s times look up for participation and cross reference the results pdf for place.

dmswim
5 years ago

One more correction- Dan Madwed competed in 2008 and 2012, placing as high as 7th in 2012.

gator
5 years ago

wow, phelps has hardly progressed…only from 2nd to 1st.

phelps swims 200 breast rio
5 years ago

It all comes down to money.

hswimmer
5 years ago

Seeing Mcgregory’s name makes me hurt, still.

Danjohnrob
5 years ago

IMHO, it is not the AGE of the swimmers competing that matters. If an athlete can swim elite international times at under 14 (female) or 15 (male) they most certainly SHOULD swim at US OT, but the qulifying times are certainly NOT set-up to select only elite international athletes! ALL athletes who swim at OT once and continue competing should be doing their best to attain their personal best and improve their times at the next meet, but it goes without saying that only a VERY small percentage ever will make an Olympic Team. There is no shame in doing your best and falling short of such an incredibly high goal, regardless of your age! I’m in favor of having… Read more »

Boknows34
5 years ago

Katie Kinnear was 24th in the 100 fly at the 2012 trials. She was named Kathryn on Omega Timing’s results page.