Aiden Hayes is Swimming World’s Boys High School Swimmer of the Year

Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Aiden Hayes was an under-the-radar swimmer coming from an under-the-radar state. But after a stellar high school season and spot at the Olympic Trials, he is putting himself and the state of Oklahoma on the map.

It has been quite a year for the teen from Norman High School.

Hayes set two national high school records at the Oklahoma state championships and was selected as Swimming World’s Boys High School Swimmer of the Year.

“It is a really big deal. Oklahoma doesn’t get the recognition in swimming. It is definitely not the biggest sport, or even top five. But it has started to pick up around the state. It started a few years ago and now Patrick Callan follows that up as one of two Olympians from Oklahoma. It is two Olympics in a row we put someone on the Olympic team. To bring that experience back to Oklahoma is huge. I looked up to Patrick when I was younger and to bring that fast swimming to Oklahoma has elevated our sport as a whole,” Aiden Hayes said. “It was a really big deal. I was obviously excited about it. To be up there with Joseph Schooling, Ryan Hoffer and Caeleb Dressel is pretty awesome. I am really excited about that.”

So was Sooner Swim Club coach Kent Nicholson.

“Oklahoma swimming has always had some top-level swimmers. We have some D-I swimmers but what Oklahoma struggles with is the depth. You will have 2-3 fast swimmers in an event then it will really drop off,” Nicholson said. “But you have these kids who swim super fast and the younger kids are responding to that. We have some fast kids coming up in Oklahoma right now.

Aiden was the Oklahoma Athlete of the Year, so swimmers being recognized as the top athlete in the state is a big deal.”


Aiden Hayes. Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

On Feb. 25, Hayes took down a pair of national high school records, first lowering the standard in the 50-yard freestyle, and then breaking the record in the 100-yard butterfly. In the 50 free, Hayes produced a winning time of 19.20, which was quick enough to better the 19.24 that Matt Brownstead posted at last year’s Pennsylvania 3A Championships.

Following the 50 freestyle, Hayes took down Schooling’s 2013 record in the 100 fly. Touching the wall in 45.47, Hayes clipped the 45.52 that Schooling managed during his days at the Bolles School in Florida. A little more than three years after Schooling set the high school record, he claimed gold in the 100 fly at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. In addition to breaking Schooling’s overall high school record, Hayes cracked the public-school standard of 45.88, set in 2019 by University of Georgia freshman Luca Urlando.

“His 50 free and 100 fly were back to back, normally 15 minute break plus awards, but because of COVID, there was no time to think and he was swimming the 100 fly 12 minutes later. It was an interesting and fun experience. Those national records, I never envisioned seeing something like that,” Nicholson said.

And Aiden Hayes did this all during a pandemic.

“It was challenging. Our city of Norman did a really good job of supporting us and allowing us an opportunity to swim outdoors. We were able to get in there early with one kid in a lane. We weren’t going to have a pool to go to in September but the city allowed us to swim outdoors until mid-October,” Nicholson said. “One hurdle that we had was we needed one more trials cut. We had a really hard time getting to a long-course meet to get that last trials cut. We got caught up in a COVID protocol so we couldn’t. But he got to right after New Years. We were then able to not worry about trials for a couple months and we focused on short course and he came into the meet hot.”

Hayes has enjoyed a stellar high school career.

In 2019, Hayes set a state record in the 50 free after sprinting past the 21-second marker for a final time of 20.09 to break Jake Pearce’s old 6A mark of 20.65. The sophomore earned another gold medal in the 100 back with yet another record-breaking time of 47.28, taking down David Plummer’s 6A record of 48.42 set back in 2004.

“The year started off well. We were able to train pretty frequently. We were ready to go and didn’t need much of a break. We were able to spend a majority of the year working hard. It wasn’t two months of this then two months of that,” Aiden Hayes said. “I felt like we were ready earlier in the year than usual. We did a lot of racing leading up to state. We had lots of opportunities to clean up the stroke and get the race strategy down. Then you had done the preparation. It wasn’t a guessing game, it was just a performance. The meet itself was a lot of fun, not just the records, but getting to race strong my senior year to close it out meant a lot.  We were able to taper and go really fast at the high school state meet for the first time in my career.”

Swimming World August 2021 - Male High School Swimmer of the Year - Aiden Hayes

Aiden Hayes. Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

It wasn’t his only strong meet. He also finished second at Speed Winter Juniors in Seattle in the 100 butterfly and won a TYR Pro Swim Series event.

Hayes held state record marks in the 50 freestyle (20.09), 100 backstroke (47.28) and 100 butterfly (46.79) and has been a part of three state-record setting relay teams in the 200 freestyle, 200 medley and 400 freestyle — all before his senior state meet in February.

He only got faster from there.

Hayes, swimming for Sooner Swim Club, finished 17th in the 100 butterfly at the U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials in Omaha, Nebraska, in June. He also took 21st in the 200 freestyle and 57th in the 50 freestyle at the Wave II trials. His times are likely to join the junior national team.

“Shifting from high school state to trials, we didn’t take any time off. We had our cuts under our belts, so we were able to go right into long-course training. Our focus was 200 fly and 100 fly. It did get a little mentally exhausting that last month. I was in the best shape of my life, but it got a little mentally tiring,” Aiden Hayes said. “I think the meet went really well. It wasn’t super killer performances like the high school records, but it was my highest national meet I have ever competed at. I placed just outside of the B final in both butterfly events and was the top 18-year-old in the country by a second or so. Being able to get that trials experience and racing like that will prepare me for junior worlds and any big meets coming after that. There is no better meet to race at in the U.S.”

Nicholson said his trials experience will be pivotal for Hayes’ future.

“The meet was successful. We were excited to be there. You have some grown men with all sorts of experience. Racing those big boys is a serious challenge and I though Aiden did a great job stepping up and racing them,” he said.

Aiden Hayes will join NC State next year and likely be an immediate point-scorer for the Wolfpack.

“I have appreciated the process more this year. As a younger swimmer, it is harder to appreciated meets and training,” Hayes said. “We figured out what we really needed to do to be ready for trials and hopefully we can put that into effect and take my swimming to the next level.”