Which Swimming World High School Swimmers of the Year Became Olympians?

Elwanda Tulloch

Which Swimming World High School Swimmers of the Year Became Olympians? (From August 2020 Swimming World Magazine) From 1993-96, Swimming World recognized only one athlete each year as the nation’s top high school swimmer. It wasn’t until 1997 that the magazine decided to attach its name to the award and honor […]

Which Swimming World High School Swimmers of the Year Became Olympians? (From August 2020 Swimming World Magazine)

From 1993-96, Swimming World recognized only one athlete each year as the nation’s top high school swimmer. It wasn’t until 1997 that the magazine decided to attach its name to the award and honor both the top male and female swimmers. Since 1997 and continuing through 2016 (the last time the Olympic Games were held), 35 swimmers have been recognized as Swimming World’s Female and Male High School Swimmers of the Year.

Twenty-one of them—10 girls and 11 boys—became Olympians who have won a combined 55 medals, including 33 gold!

Arizona’s Misty Hyman and Kentucky’s Nate Dusing were recognized as the first “official” award winner. Both swimmers had set national high school records in the 100 yard fly, and both moved on to powerhouse swimming teams in college: Hyman to Stanford and Dusing to Texas.

And they both would later earn spots on the 2000 U.S. Olympic team, with Dusing earning a silver medal on the 800 meter free relay as a prelims swimmer and Hyman turning in one of the biggest upsets in Olympic history in the 200 fly. Dusing made a second team in 2004, earning bronze for the 400 free relay (prelims).

In 1998, California’s Natalie Coughlin became one of the few sophomores to win the award, breaking the national record in the 100 back and 200 IM. Coughlin made three Olympic teams in 2004, 2008 and 2012 and became the first (and only) woman to win back-to-back gold medals in the 100 backstroke. Her 12 total medals rank second (tied with Ryan Lochte, Jenny Thompson and Dara Torres) behind Michael Phelps 28.

In the next two years, The Bolles School of Florida provided two high school swimmers of the year who went on to represent their respective countries at the Olympics: Janelle Atkinson (2000) and Alex Lim (1999, 2000). Atkinson represented Jamaica in 2000 and 2004, finishing fourth in the 400 free at Sydney, missing Jamaica’s first swimming medal by less than a second. She finished ninth in the 800, setting a national record, before swimming four years at Florida. Lim was the first male to receive the award twice. He represented Malaysia at the 1996, 2000 and 2004 Games, finishing as high as 15th in the 100 back in 2004. Lim swam four years at Cal.

2002-2005

Swimming World Magazine July 2002 Issue- PDF ONLY - Cover

Milorad Cavic (2002), who swam high school in California, represented Yugoslavia at the 2000 Games, Serbia and Montenegro in 2004 and Serbia in 2008 and 2012. Cavic is perhaps most known for getting out-touched by Michael Phelps in the 100 fly in 2008. But before that, he was a national public school record holder in the 50 free and 100 fly, and he also swam four years at Cal.

Swimming World Magazine July 2003 Issue- PDF ONLY - Cover

In 2003, the award went to Michigan’s Kara Lynn Joyce and Illinois’ Matt Grevers. Joyce quickly made a name for herself internationally, making the 2004 team in the 50 and 100 free after her freshman year at Georgia. She sprinted her way onto two more teams in 2008 and 2012, winning four silver medals in relays. She also had a tremendous short course yards career, winning nine individual NCAA titles out of a possible 12.

After winning three individual NCAA titles for Northwestern, Grevers qualified for the 2008 Olympics and won three medals, including two gold as a prelims swimmer on the 400 medley and 400 freestyle relays and a silver in the 100 back. In 2012, he won the 100 back, led off the winning medley relay and added a silver in the 400 free relay (prelims). Now he’s training for a possible third trip to the Olympics in 2021 when he’ll be 36.

In 2004, California’s Jessica Hardy won her first of two SOY awards. As a senior in 2005, she became the first high school woman to break a minute in the 100 yard breast before setting the world record in the 100 meter breast later that summer at the World Championships. Hardy, who swam two seasons at Cal, also qualified for the 2008 Olympic team after winning the 100 breast and finishing second in the 50 free at Trials, but after testing positive for the prohibited substance clenbuterol, she agreed to withdraw from the team during training camp “for the good of the team” (despite claiming her innocence). Hardy rebounded four years later to make the 2012 team in the 50 and 100 free, finishing as high as seventh in the 50. However, as a relay swimmer, she swam on the bronze medal-winning 400 freestyle relay, and she earned a gold medal in the 400 medley (prelims).

2006-2010

Kate Ziegler – the 2006 high school swimmer of the year. Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

2006 saw Virginia’s Kate Ziegler and North Carolina’s Ricky Berens take the high school awards, with both making the 2008 and 2012 Olympic teams. Ziegler was tabbed as one of the top medal hopes in Beijing—she had won the 800 and 1500 meter freestyles at the 2007 World Championships and also broke one of Janet Evans’ long-standing world records in the 1500 at a mid-season meet in California that same year. However, she failed to qualify for the final in either event. Ziegler made the team four years later in the 800, but had a similar result, finishing 21st. Nonetheless, she had a great high school career, breaking one of Janet Evans’ long-standing records in the 500.

Berens won a gold medal in the 800 freestyle relay in 2008, joining Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte and Peter Vanderkaay to become the first quartet to break 7:00. Berens was a mainstay on the U.S. team for the next four years, and made the team again in 2012, this time picking up an individual spot in the 200 free. He finished ninth, missing out on the final by 7-hundredths, but he again swam the third leg of the 800 relay that captured gold.

In 2008, Texas’ Jimmy Feigen won high school swimmer of the year honors for his national records in the 50 and 100 free before swimming at the University of Texas. He made two Olympic teams by finishing fifth in the 100 free at the 2012 and 2016 Trials. Feigen led off the 400 free relay in prelims at both Games, winning silver in 2012 and gold in 2016.

California’s Tom Shields was named swimmer of the year in 2009 for his national record in the 200 free. He went on to swim at Cal and make the Olympic team in 2016. Despite having success in the 200 free in high school as a national record holder, Shields actually qualified for the team in the 100 and 200 fly, with his best individual performance a seventh-place finish in the 100 in Rio to go along with a gold medal in the 400 medley relay (prelims).

Fellow Californian Vladimir Morozov won SOY honors in 2010 before swimming in college at USC. In 2013, Morozov became the first man to break 18 seconds for a 50 free relay split in 2013, and he swam in two Olympic Games for Russia, winning a bronze medal in the 400 free relay in 2012.

2011-2014

The first tie for high school swimmer of the year came in 2011 between Minnesota’s Rachel Bootsma and California’s Jasmine Tosky. Bootsma, the national high school record holder in the 100 back, made the Olympic team a year later in that same event. She finished 11th in London, but earned a gold medal in the 400 medley relay (prelims). Bootsma swam four years at Cal and won three NCAA titles in her specialty event.

jack-conger

Jack Conger – the 2012, 2013 high school swimmer of the year. Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

In 2012, juniors Missy Franklin from Colorado and Jack Conger from Maryland were named swimmers of the year. Franklin had been a fixture on the U.S. national team up to that point, winning three gold medals, including the 200 back, at the 2011 World Championships. In London, she swept the backstroke gold medals and also earned three relay medals, two gold and one bronze. She made a return trip in 2016 after two years at Cal, but did not make it past the semifinals in either the 200 free or 200 back. However, she earned a gold medal in the 800 free relay (prelims). She retired after Rio after having one of the most successful careers in swimming.

Conger went on to swim at Texas and made the 2016 Olympic team in the 800 free relay, winning a gold medal (prelims). He helped Texas win three national titles in his four years, contributing to seven relay victories and a win in the 200 fly in 2017. Conger still holds the national independent record in the 100 free.

2013 saw the first co-winners on the male side, with Conger earning his second award, this time tying with fellow senior Ryan Murphy from Florida. Murphy joined Conger on the 2016 team as he swept the backstroke gold medals and also led off the 400 medley relay team with a world record, which still stands today.

Also that year, Illinois’ Olivia Smoliga was crowned swimmer of the year after becoming the first high school woman to break 22 seconds in the 50 free. She swam four years at Georgia and made the 2016 Olympic team in the 100 back, finishing sixth in the final and earning a gold medal in the 400 medley relay (prelims). Smoliga won two team titles at Georgia and still holds the public school record in the 100 back.

Katie Ledecky – the 2014, 2015 high school swimmer of the year. Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

In 2014, Florida’s Caeleb Dressel won the award alongside Maryland’s Katie Ledecky as two of the future faces of USA Swimming. As a senior, Dressel broke the national high school record in the 50 free and 100 fly. He carried that momentum to the University of Florida, winning nine individual NCAA titles in his collegiate career and setting five American records in one year. He made the 2016 Olympic team in the 100 free—finishing sixth—led off the gold medal-winning 400 free relay team, and added a second gold medal in the 400 medley relay (prelims).

By 2014, Ledecky was already an established name, having won an Olympic gold medal (800 free) in 2012 at age 15 and being named Swimming World’s female World Swimmer of the Year in 2013. In 2016 at Rio, she won four gold medals plus one silver, smashing world records in the 400 and 800 free. Winning the SOY award again in 2015, Ledecky became one of nine swimmers to be recognized in back-to-back years.

2015-2019

Reece Whitley & Emily Weiss – the 2018 high school swimmers of the year. Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

With the 2020 Olympics postponed to 2021, time will tell if any of Swimming World’s High School Swimmers of the Year from 2015-19 will become Olympians. Andrew Seliskar (2015) and Grant Shoults (2016) made the 2019 World Championships team. Beata Nelson (2016) was a multi-NCAA champion for Wisconsin.

Morgan Tankersley (2017) and Emily Weiss (2018) are All-America swimmers at Stanford and Indiana, respectively.

Reece Whitley (2017, 2018) and Luca Urlando (2019) have won individual long course national titles, while Torri Huske (2019) and Carson Foster (2019) won nine gold medals between them (Huske, 5; Foster, 4) at the 2019 World Junior Championships.

High School Swimmers of the Year:

Year Girls Boys
2020 Not awarded due to COVID-19 pandemic Not awarded due to COVID-19 pandemic
2019 Torri Huske, Yorktown High School, Virginia Gianluca Urlando, C.K. McClatchy High School, California
Carson Foster, Sycamore High School, Ohio
2018 Emily Weiss, Yorktown High School, Indiana Reece Whitley, Penn Charter High School, Pennsylvania
2017 Morgan Tankersley, Plant High School, Florida Reece Whitley, Penn Charter High School, Pennsylvania
2016 Beata Nelson, Mount Hebron, Wisconsin Grant Shoults, Rancho Margarita, California
2015 Katie Ledecky, Stone Ridge, Maryland Andrew Seliskar, Thomas Jefferson S&T, Virginia
2014 Katie Ledecky, Stone Ridge, Maryland Caeleb Dressel, Clay, Florida
2013 Olivia Smoliga, Glenbrook South, Illinois Ryan Murphy, Bolles, Florida
Jack Conger, Our Lady of Good Counsel, Maryland
2012 Missy Franklin, Regis Jesuit, Colorado Jack Conger, Our Lady of Good Counsel, Maryland
2011 Rachel Bootsma, Eden Prairie, Minnesota
Jasmine Tosky, Palo Alto, California
David Nolan, Hershey, Pennsylvania
2010 Dagny Knutson, Minot, North Dakota Vlad Morozov, Torrance, California
2009 Dagny Knutson, Minot, North Dakota Tom Shields, Edison, California
2008 Mary Beck, Austin Westlake, Texas Jimmy Feigen, Winston Churchill, Texas
2007 Mary Beck, Austin Westlake, Texas Austin Staab, Westerville Central, Ohio
2006 Kate Ziegler, O’Connell, Virginia Ricky Berens, South Mecklenburg, North Carolina
2005 Jessica Hardy, Long Beach Wilson, California Alex Righi, Brophy, Arizona
2004 Jessica Hardy, Long Beach Wilson, California Kyle Bubolz, Waukesha North, Wisconsin
2003 Kara Lynn Joyce, Ann Arbor Pioneer, Michigan Matt Grevers, Lake Forest, Illinois
2002 Christina Swindle, Gulliver Prep, Florida Mike Cavic, Tustin, California
2001 Christina Swindle, Gulliver Prep, Florida Jayme Cramer, St. Xavier, Ohio
2000 Janelle Atkinson, The Bolles School, Florida Alex Lim, The Bolles School, Florida
1999 Kristen Woodring, Wilson, Pennsylvania Alex Lim, The Bolles School, Florida
1998 Natalie Coughlin, Carondelet, California Patrick Fowler, Seattle Prep, Washington
1997 Misty Hyman, Shadow Mountain, Arizona Nate Dusing, Covington Catholic, Kentucky

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