Editorial Coverage Sponsored By FINIS
By Remedy Rule, Swimming World College Intern
The U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials: an unparalleled meet where a select few swimmers transform into Olympians. Their post-race reactions range from tears of joy and gaping mouths to fist pumping and water slapping. What’s consistent, though, no matter if it’s the swimmer’s 5th Olympics (Michael Phelps) or the swimmer’s first time qualifying, is their gratitude expressed to their support system.
American record holder and 2016 Rio Olympian Townley Haas support system extends from Austin, Texas to Richmond, Virginia. After his post-race interviews, the Texas men’s team engulfed Haas in a giant group hug congratulating him. His club team (NOVA of Virginia Aquatics), summer league team (Church Run Rockets), and high school team (Benedictine College Preparatory), banded together to sell Townley Haas t-shirts, showing their support and fundraising for his parents’ travel expenses.
Fast times reflect he’s a good swimmer but inspiring communities to rally behind him reflect so much more. Who is Townley Haas beneath the cap and behind the goggles?
Let’s hear from the people who know Townley Haas best…
“He’s always loved the water. When he was 18 months old, he thought he could swim so he would jump in the deep end and flail every limb in his body and his head would move side to side. He looked like a real goofball.”
-Lori Haas, Haas’ mom
“Senior year at NCSAs, Townley managed to come down with food poisoning. He missed the first couple days of the meet but halfway through came back and managed not just to swim but throw down some gnarly races- just kind of defined who he was. Never afraid of the challenge. Never afraid of obstacles. Kid’s a fighter but not the showboaty, cocky stud a lot of top young athletes are. He’s never met someone who he believed he was better than. I think that’s what allowed him never to be held down by anything. Unbelievable friend and teammate but an even better all around guy.”
-Luke Martin, University of Connecticut swimmer who swam on NOVA
“Out of our guys, 80 percent had attended Olympic Trials before. Townley was not one of them. I told him once we got to the meet I’d walk him through the ready room, up the stairs, and onto the pool deck. He looked at me and said, ‘I’ll be fine.’ That’s just the type of demeanor he has.”
-Kris Kubik, UT Men’s Swimming Assistant Coach
“He’s humble, and through everything he’s stayed true to himself. You’d never guess how good he is from simply talking to him. All of us back at home are insanely proud of him, and [humility] is one of the biggest characteristics we all love about him.”
-Selina Fuller, William&Mary swimmer who swam on NOVA
“When T was in middle school and I was in high school, we went with some friends to play football in the snow. Townley tried to tackle me and I accidentally kicked him in the face. I knocked out his top right two front teeth and split his lip. We found them in the snow and the doc was able to put them back. A couple dozen stitches later, he has a cool scar and his own teeth back in his mouth. In classic Townley style he didn’t say much.” (Townley returned quickly back to training with NOVA after this incident).
-Wyatt Haas, Haas’ brother
“He picked the right sport. I’ve seen him play basketball.”
-Max Holter, UT swimmer
“He’s incapable of being serious… a majority of our friendship was making fun of each other. I mean you’ve seen him give an interview, he tries but he just always ends up laughing. The most famous story I have of us is when I lost a bet to him and Ted Schubert and they got to shave off part of my eyebrow.”
-Abby Jones, William & Mary swimmer who swam on NOVA
“I will never forget walking up to Townley just minutes before he was to be in the ready room to start staging for the 500 (at 2016 NCAAs). I pulled him aside, looked up at him, and told him, ‘Do you know what the team needs from you right now?’ And with zero hesitation and an icy look in his eye, he replied ‘Yeah, I need to find a way to put my hand on that wall first, no matter what.’ With that, he marched off to the ready room and minutes later was diving into the water. He led that race from start to finish and provided the team with the electricity we needed in order to take home our 12th National Championship title.”
–Wyatt Collins, UT Men’s Swimming volunteer coach
Haas will swim the 200 freestyle and the 4×200 freestyle relay. Veterans Connor Dwyer and Ryan Lochte, and newcomers Jack Conger, Gunnar Bentz, and Clark Smith join Haas on the relay. Haas, Conger, and Smith have plenty of experience racing together; they all swim on the University of Texas and along with Joseph Schooling hold the short course 4×200 freestyle relay U.S. Open record and NCAA record.