Thomas Heilman A Rising Star After National Age Group Record Blitz

thomas-heilman
Thomas Heilman -- Photo Courtesy: Lisa Martin

Thomas Heilman A Rising Star After National Age Group Record Blitz

Over a 10-day stretch of racing, Thomas Heilman threatened a record every time he dove into the pool. Heilman, 14, had made his debut racing against the best swimmers in the country one year earlier at the multi-site U.S. Open, but he became a headliner for the first time this year. Competing on back-to-back weekends in Greensboro, N.C., Heilman took down long course National Age Group records in four events at the U.S. Open, and shortly after, he broke NAG marks in four short course yards events.

“It was a really cool experience,” Heilman said. “I had a lot of fun at the two meets with all my teammates, and it was a lot of fun meeting and then racing against people from other teams, kind of getting to know some of them.”

At the U.S. Open, Heilman swam records in the 50 free (22.95), 100 fly (53.27), 200 free (1:51.27) and 100 free (51.12). Most impressive was his 100 fly, where his finals time made him 1.2 seconds faster than the second-fastest 13-14 boy in U.S. history, future Olympian Michael Andrew. It was also the first time Heilman surpassed a Wave II cut for this past summer’s Olympic Trials. Then, in the 200 fly, Heilman recorded a time of 1:59.87, less than a second off the age-group record held by the great Michael Phelps.

Those long course times were eye-opening, stamping Heilman’s name into the mind of swimming fans as a name to closely watch as he continues to grow and improve. But his efforts in short course a few days later were arguably more impressive as Heilman swam times in multiple events that were just tenths off the standard required to score points at the 2021 NCAA Championships.

Heilman’s yards campaign got underway the day after the U.S. Open ended, when he swam a 43.51 in the 100 free at a YMCA meet in Cary. Then, he returned to Greensboro to barely miss Andrew’s 50 free NAG record (19.83, just off Andrew’s 19.76) and then destroy records in the 100 fly (45.81), 200 free (1:34.68) and 200 fly (1:42.77). He finished more than a second under Andrew’s previous record in the 100 fly and more than two seconds faster than the previous best mark in both of his 200-yard races. Obviously, all of those performances crushed Heilman’s own lifetime bests by even greater margins.

He shocked the country with his times, but Heilman surprised himself only a little bit compared to his own expectations.

“I definitely had goals to be near those record times, but I even went a little past my goal times, so in that sense it was a little unexpected,” he said. “It was kind of in the ballpark of my goal times.”

Heilman stands six-feet-two-inches tall, but he is just a freshman in high school. He swims just six practices per week (all in the morning with no doubles), and his new coach is Gary Taylor, the former Auburn head coach who became head coach at Cavalier Aquatics this season. Among those in the training group is Heilman’s older brother, Matthew, a senior in high school who is still considering his options for college swimming.

“He’s more of a breaststroker, so we don’t necessarily bang heads in practice, but when we swim IM, we do race sometimes, so it can get a little competitive,” Thomas said.

Right now, it’s all working perfectly as Thomas is having about as much success in the pool as possible, crushing his lifetime bests and breaking records almost every time out.

Competing at these national-level meets has allowed Heilman to meet competitors from all over the country, which he calls his favorite part of swimming (while Heilman said his least favorite part is getting up early for morning practice). He even got to chat with Olympic medalists Bobby Finke and Bruno Fratus at the U.S. Open, along with top junior-level swimmers like Baylor Nelson at Junior Nationals.

“Everybody I met was really cool. Really good talking to them,” Heilman said. He paraphrased some advice he got from former Michigan swimmer Gus Borges at the U.S. Open: “They remember the person, not the player. People are going to remember who you are as a person before they remember what you did in the pool.”

Heilman wants to take those words to heart and act with poise as he is rapidly improving in the pool and making his mark on the national level.

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The Magnorum
8 months ago

“1.2 seconds faster than the second-fastest 13-14 boy in U.S. history, future Olympian Michael Andrew.”
“ 1:59.87, less than a second off the age-group record held by the great Michael Phelps.”
Either this kid is taking steroids, he’s going to quit in a year and we’ll forget he ever existed or he’s going to be greatest we’ve ever seen. The above’s just absurd. I also highly doubt he was doing six sessions a week…I mean, Michael Phelps is about as talented a it’s physically possible to be, and this guy is beating it….Sounds a bit like roids imo but I s’pose we’ll see.

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Josh
8 months ago
Reply to  The Magnorum

Well records are meant to be broken and it’s not like Phelps’ records haven’t been broken. If i’m not mistaken this is his last NAG so it’s not very surprising.

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TJ
8 months ago
Reply to  The Magnorum

I had the luck to watch him swim at a meet at TAC in Cary when he was 12 years old, where he set national records and was crushing everyone years ago. He’s an insanely gifted swimmer with a bright future.

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anoce aye
8 months ago
Reply to  The Magnorum

jealous? lmao why cant you just accept ppl are talented naturally LOL