A Comparison of the Varying Development Among United States Sprinters


A Comparison of Development Among United States Sprinters

It’s always interesting to see when different athletes emerged? Were they standouts from a young age? A late bloomer? Did they follow a gradual arc of progression? Swimmers such as Ryan Held and Michael Andrew are now household names in the swim community. But were these USA National Teamers always elite swimmers, or did they see massive improvements just in the last couple of years to get to this point?   

Below are tables comparing the progression of the top five 50-meter freestylers in the United States in 2023 through their careers in high school and college and in the professional circuit. The top line provides a look at short-course performances, with long-course efforts listed on the bottom line.

Ryan Held

Freshman Sophomore Junior  Senior College Fr College PB Pro
21.80 20.70 19.92 19.52 19.27 18.56
24.50 23.67 23.60 22.85 22.16 21.50

Ryan Held has had a steady progression since starting high school, dropping time every step of the way. Held was the fastest 50 freestyler this season in the United States.  While he was not the fastest swimmer in the country when he started high school, he was a premier swimmer by the time he graduated. As a member of the N.C. State Wolfpack, he improved dramatically and made the 2016 Olympic Team, winning a gold medal as a member of the 4×100 free relay. Held now trains at ASU, and has seen even more drops in his 50 freestyle. 

Michael Andrew

Freshman Sophomore Junior  Senior Pro
19.89 19.24 19.17 18.88 19.14
22.82 22.33 22.22 21.75 21.41

Michael Andrew is a household name in the swim community, and it is clear why. His times as a high-school-aged athlete were superb, especially in LCM. He is the second fastest 50 SCY swimmer ever when it comes to times produced by a high-school-aged swimmer. 

Jack Alexy

Freshman Sophomore Junior Senior College Fr College PB (Current Junior) Pro
20.11 20.07 20.08 19.61 19.27 18.77
23.19 22.93 (COVID) 22.47 22.13 21.57

Jack Alexy is someone who may not have been as well known by many before the 2023 U.S. Nationals, but he was a very accomplished swimmer prior to that. He had a breakout NCAA Championships just a few months prior and holds the 17-18 NAG for the 100m freestyle, which he set back in 2021.  The 2023 LC season was a breakout for Alexy, as he dropped over a half second in the 50 free this season. 

Matt King

Freshman Sophomore Junior Senior College Fr College PB Pro
20.96 20.54 19.95 19.70 18.96 18.96
24.23 22.99 22.81 (COVID) 22.55 21.83 21.80

Matt King has had great success on the national and international stages recently, winning the 50 and 100 free at U.S. Nationals. This success is not new.  King was a fast high schooler, but he took massive strides freshman year at Alabama.  King currently trains for Coley Stickles, his former Coach at Alabama, at Texas Ford Aquatics.  King undoubtedly has more blazing college swims coming – having transferred to UVA – with an intervening gap year extending his eligibility. 

Brooks Curry

Freshman (2016) Sophomore






College Fr College PB Pro
23.41 22.17 21.08 20.65 19.30 18.56
26.96 24.85 23.87 23.14 COVID 21.84 21.84

Brooks Curry became known by many in the swimming world after a massively impressive 2021-2022 season, coming off sharing in the gold medal at the Olympics in the 4×100 free relay. Curry won the 50 and 100 free at NCAAs and made the World Championships final in the 100m free. Curry was someone who was not even a very competitive swimmer until his junior year of high school but has exploded every year since then. 

Chris Guiliano

Freshman Sophomore Junior  Senior College Fr College PB (Current Junior) Pro
46.58 45.05 44.29 43.40 42.34 41.48
53.27 52.00 COVID 50.53 50.28 47.98

Chris Guiliano is another swimmer with steady improvements making this list. This progression table adds the 100-yard and 100-meter free to show truly how linear Guiliano’s progression has been. Even many swim nerds did not know who Guiliano was before the 2023 ACC Championships where he won the 200 free. Guiliano followed that with a terrific NCAA Championships and then a monster U.S. Nationals. 

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