At 15 years old, Dalton’s Ethan Young already has the experience of traveling around the country to compete in three national-level meets.
He made the third trip his best one yet.
The Dalton High School sophomore spent part of last week in Irvine, Calif., at the USA Swimming Speedo Summer Junior National Championships. While representing the Car-pet Capital Aquatics Club (CCAC) Makos, he went against other 18-and-younger swimmers from around the nation in the 100-meter backstroke, 200 backstroke and 100 butterfly.
His best performances came in the two backstroke events — where he qualified for the finals and 2016 Summer Olympics Trials in each, and earned a medal for a seventh-place finish in the 100 backstroke with a final swim of 57.61 seconds. In the 200 backstroke, he finished 24th with a final swim of 2:06.38.
Young was the youngest swimmer in the 100 backstroke “A” final for the fastest swimmers but said he wasn’t nervous about going against older, more experienced opponents.
“Not at all,” Young said. “I was more pumped and excited than anything. I think the time to get nervous would be in the preliminary round because you have to make that final heat.”
He also avoided anxiety because of his previous national-level experience. At last summer’s junior national championships in Indianapolis, Young finished 22nd in the 200 backstroke. He also competed in the 100 backstroke, but did not make the finals, whereas fellow CCAC swimmer Taylor Dale — a 2013 Dalton High School graduate who will begin his college swimming career at Georgia this school year — won the 100 backstroke championship with a time of 55.98 seconds.
Young also competed in last December’s winter junior national championships in Knoxville, Tenn. He finished 16th in the 100-yard backstroke (50.10) but didn’t qualify for the finals after swimming the preliminaries in the 100 and 200 butterfly and 200 backstroke.
“This time around it was a whole lot more relaxing, I’d say,” Young said. “Having those first two junior nationals under my belt, it helped me take it in a lot better.
“I think the biggest thing to take away from this is motivation.”
Charles Todd, the head coach for both the CCAC and Dalton High’s swimming and diving program, was there to see his pupil shine.
“There were a row of college coaches. After the meet, they talked to me,” Todd said. “They can’t recruit him (per NCAA rules) but they came up and told me, ‘Nice swim. We have him on our radar.’ So that helps motivate him to come back and begin training hard for next year. He can do this again as a 16-, 17- and 18-year-old. He can go to three more Junior Nationals and climb up that notch.”
To qualify for the finals each night at the national meet, swimmers had to be among the top 24 during preliminaries during the meet’s day session. The fastest eight advanced to the “A” final, the next eight made the “B” final and the remaining eight went into the “C” final. Swimmers could change their ultimate place within their group during the finals, but go no higher or lower than those eight — for instance, a swimmer could enter the “C” final with the 24th-fastest time but finish as high as 17th.
Last week, Young’s preliminary swim in the 100 backstroke (57.28) was seventh best, good enough for the A” final. In the 200 backstroke preliminary, Young had the 19th-best time of 2:04.75, qualifying him for the “C” final, and it was another Olympics Trial qualifier. He missed the finals in the 100 butterfly.
“He had a real strong performance on the preliminaries,” Todd said. “He ended up getting two Olympic Trial cuts. At night, his times were a little slower. That was still his fastest meet to date.”
However, it could’ve been better, Todd said.
“This was an outdoor pool,” he said. “In Indianapolis, it was an indoor pool. For backstrokers, it’s a lot easier to find something on the ceiling to line yourself up like a bar or ceiling line. In Irvine, we swam at 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. and the only thing you could line yourself up with is pretty blue skies and sunshine.”
Young is now looking to the 2013-2014 high school season. Dalton won the Class A-5A state title last winter, and without Dale back this season, Young and senior Taylor Mathis will be the two biggest names returning as the Catamounts aim for a repeat performance.
“I think this really helps me get motivated and look forward to next season,” Young said.