From Staff Reports
Age doesn’t matter much to Ethan Young.
Time is a different story — but the wunderkind swimmer wins most of his battles with the clock in the pool anyway.
Young, a 15-year-old Dalton High School sophomore and a member of the Carpet Capital Aquatics Club (CCAC), earned his latest accolade Friday night at the Speedo Winter Junior Nationals in Greensboro, N.C. He clocked a personal-best time of 47.53 seconds in the 100-yard backstroke, finishing fourth in the championship final at the 18-and-under USA Swimming national event.
Charles Todd, Young’s coach both for the CCAC and at Dalton High School, said the time broke the Georgia state record in the event for USA Swimming. It’s also the third-fastest time for a 15- or 16-year-old boy in the event in USA Swimming history, behind Ryan Murphy (46.78) and Dylan Carter (47.22), Todd said.
“We’re all pretty pumped right now,” Todd said in a phone interview, joking, “I might even feed him pasta.”
Young’s final performance im-proved on his time of 47.99 in the preliminaries earlier in the day and shattered his previous best from before Friday, 49.09.
Trista Sanders won the event in 46.80 seconds, ahead of Carter (47.80) and Ryan Dudzinski (47.46).
As usual, Young reached a new level against older competition, as has often been the case in the fast-rising star’s ascension in the national ranks. In Friday’s 100 backstroke final, he was the lone 15-year-old — his birthday is Feb. 18 — in an eight-swimmer field that also had a 16-year-old, three 17-year-olds (the three swimmers ahead of Young) and three 18-year-olds.
Not that typically being the youngest one in the pool matters much to Young, who set the 14-under national record for the 200 backstroke a year ago for his first national age-group mark.
His time of 1:46.56 in that event bettered the 1:46.67 set by Murphy, who is now a freshman at the University of California-Berkeley.
“That is one of the great things about swimming,” Young said. “In football, it’s hard to compare quarterback to quarterback.
“You can always have assumptions, but really it’s hard to make a fair judgment. In swimming, it’s all about time, so age doesn’t really play into effect ... nothing really matters other than your time, so that’s the joy about it.”
Young said that when he first started competing at national meets as a 12-year-old he was sometimes intimidated knowing there were national stars, Olympians and swimmers he admired in the same building.
That nervousness has passed, and now the presence of fast swimmers — Todd said there are as many as 200 competitors in some events at such national meets — only serves to push him more.
“I feel like no matter where I’m at I can always swim fast,” Young said, “but having an atmosphere like this and having the preparation we put going into this meet, it sure makes my job a whole lot easier.”
Todd’s job is made easier by Young’s combination of talent and drive.
The coach said Young’s fast swim Friday night was aided by his “underwaters,” his speed and efficiency in the 15 meters swimmers are allowed to remain underwater in the event before surfacing for the stroke. Other coaches at the event approached Todd after Young’s swim, impressed by his grasp of the technique.
“He was just outstanding with that, and we’re pretty pleased with the results,” Todd said.
Todd has been talking about Young’s potential for years, and the swimmer has continued to make progress despite high expectations.
“He’s pretty good about working and setting goals with me,” Todd said. “He’ll set goals and try to achieve those, and over the years he’s been achieving those — and some of them are really high-end goals like being the national record-holder.
“He’s done these things and just continues to set goals and strive for them. He’s real goal-oriented and focused.”
Young came up short in his bid to make the finals in the 100 butterfly — the top 24 swimmers in preliminaries advance to the A, B or C final based on their times — after swimming to a time of 50.90.
He has one event remaining at the meet, which started Thursday and concludes today, and will shoot for the finals in the 200 backstroke. The backstroke is currently his strongest stroke, Todd said, but he has also done well in the butterfly and has made improvements in freestyle.
The only other CCAC swimmer at the event, 16-year-old Bryant Mathis, competed in the 100 breaststroke Friday. He clocked a 59.39 and missed the finals.