Torri Huske, Embarking on Stanford Career, Named Swimming World H.S. Swimmer of the Year

Jul 25, 2021; Tokyo, Japan; Torri Huske (USA) in a women's 100m butterfly semifinal during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Summer Games at Tokyo Aquatics Centre. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Network
Torri Huske competing at the Tokyo Olympics -- Photo Courtesy: Robert Hanashiro/USA Today Sports

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Torri Huske, From Girls’ High School Swimmer of the Year to Olympic Medalist

(From August’s Swimming World Magazine)

Torri Huske finished her high school career by setting national high school records in the 100-yard fly and 200 IM, and by being named Swimming World’s Female High School Swimmer of the Year for the second time (2019, 2021). The 18-year-old senior from Yorktown High School (Arlington, Va.) will be moving on to Stanford in the fall, but first, she set an American record in the 100-meter fly at U.S. Trials that earned her a trip to Tokyo to compete in her first Olympics, where she captured a silver medal.

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In the 15 minutes or so before any race, Torri Huske prefers not to speak with anyone. The 18-year-old from Yorktown High School and the Arlington Aquatic Club in Virginia might be a newer face on the elite swimming scene, but as she has steadily built to this level, she has refined the approach to racing that works for her. Some swimmers are social beings in the immediate leadup to the race to distract themselves from nerves and pressure, but Huske embraces those feelings, knowing she can channel them into adrenaline.

“I just like sitting on the floor and stretching and getting in my own head and getting in my own mindset,” she said. “Sometimes I’ll think about the race. I’ll think about how I’m feeling, like emotionally. It’s just feeling everything that’s around you and the energy. Sometimes, there’s this tension. Everyone’s really anxious before their swim, and I feel like it’s just kind of experiencing the moment, shaking out my body, making sure everything feels good and that I’m loose and stretched out and making sure that I’m warm and that I’m physically and mentally ready.”

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Torri Huske after winning the women’s 100 fly at Olympic Trials and qualifying for her first Olympic team — Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

In the past few months, the United States and the world have gotten the chance to see Huske display her physical talents and mental fortitude on the sport’s grandest stages, the Olympic Trials and the Olympics, but before that, she was producing some of the best-ever performances in high school swimming. She broke the national public school record in the 100-yard fly as a sophomore, then as a junior and then a third time her senior year at the high school regional meet. That set her up for an amazing swan song for her high school swimming career.

At the Virginia 6A championships in late February, Huske swam a 1:53.73 in the 200-yard IM, breaking a 12-year-old national record of 1:53.82 held by Dagny Knutson. Shortly after, she won the 100 fly in 49.95, breaking not only her own public school record, but the overall national high school record held by Claire Curzan. Just six years after the first overall woman broke 50 seconds in the 100 fly, Huske became the first to do so in a high school swimming competition. Those two record-breaking performances were good enough for Huske to be named Swimming World’s Female High School Swimmer of the Year.

“I have been chasing after that for so long,” Huske said of her 49-second effort. “It was kind of just a relief. I had been 50-point so many times, and it was really frustrating, just because I knew I was capable of going under 50, and I had been so close so many times. It was just really nice to finally look at the clock and see that.”

Huske almost broke a third national public school record that day, with her 200 free relay leadoff split of 21.65 coming up just one hundredth short of Abbey Weitzeil’s record. But much more significant for Huske was leading Yorktown to a state championship, the first in her high school career. Yorktown finished with 236 points to defeat runner-up Battlefield by 27.

“We’ve been so close to getting first as a team these past three years,” Huske said. “My freshman year, I think we were second. My sophomore year, I think we got third as a team, but we were closer in points than we were the previous year. And then last year, we got second again. We’ve been really trying hard. I feel like we were working for this so long as a team, so it was really nice that it finally happened, especially for my senior year. It kind of came together. It all felt complete.”

But even as Huske excelled in her high school competitions this year, the format did not allow her to show just how good she is across a bunch of events. Adding in her club competitions for the Arlington Aquatic Club, Huske finished the short course season with times that would have placed her in the top three at the NCAA Championships in four events—the 200 IM (1:53.73), 50 free (21.39), 100 fly (49.70) and 200 free (1:43.23) — and her times in the 100 free (47.60) and 200 fly (1:53.71) are also elite.

Those times will make her immediately one of the best collegiate swimmers in the country when she heads west to Stanford University this fall, and she is sure to be a hugely valuable performer for the Cardinal, looking to return to the top of the national heap after capturing national titles in 2017, 2018 and 2019.


Next Step: Becoming an Olympian

Huske had clinched the title of top high school swimmer in the country by the end of the spring, but it turns out that was just a small preview of what she would accomplish in 2021. In eight days at the U.S. Olympic Trials, perhaps the most extraordinary performance came from the teenager from Arlington, Va., competing in her first Trials.

The meet took place in a pool placed in the middle of an enormous basketball arena, and while she watched the Wave I meet on television, Huske figured she might be intimidated by the setup. But upon arrival, she saw the CHI Health Center in Omaha, Neb. as “another pool, a little fancier than most,” and the meet did not faze her. Before each race, Huske walked out from the ready room to the blocks quicker than almost any athlete, completely zeroed-in on the moment and the race ahead. She stuck to her pre-race approach, soaked in the energy of Trials and thrived.

As Huske had exploded through her short course performances, her improvement in long course turned her into a contender to qualify for an Olympics. In December 2019, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Huske won the 100-meter fly at the U.S. Open in December 2019, coming out of Lane 1 to swim a 57.48 to beat 2016 Olympian Kelsi Dahlia by a half-second. That effort showed Huske that, yes, she could be an Olympian one day.

One weekend racing fellow teenager Claire Curzan in Cary, N.C., in April really accentuated the hype around Huske, as she became just the fourth American to break 57 in the long course 100 butterfly and posted some really swift times in the sprint freestyle events, but no one foresaw the effort Huske had in store for the 100 fly in Omaha.

Aug 1, 2021; Tokyo, Japan; USA medalists Regan Smith (USA) , Lydia Jacoby (USA) , Torri Huske (USA) and Abbey Weitzeil (USA) pose with silver medals during the medals ceremony for the women's 4x100m medley relay during the Tokyo 2020 Olympics at Tokyo Aquatics Centre. Mandatory Credit: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports

Torri Huske won her first Olympic medal as part of the U.S. women’s 400 medley relay at the Tokyo Olympics; from left to right, Regan Smith, Lydia Jacoby, Huske & Abbey Weitzeil — Photo Courtesy: Rob Schumacher/USA Today Sports

She ended up breaking the 100 fly American record, a nine-year-old mark belonging to 2012 Olympic gold medalist Dana Vollmer, first with a 55.78 in the semifinals and then a 55.66 in the final, more than a second faster than her previous lifetime best. Huske took both races out under world-record pace at the halfway point and showed off her immense power and skill as she crushed the field of her compatriots to qualify for her first Olympics.

Huske was careful not to expect to make the team, but she knew that a 55-second effort could be in store if all went well on the day.

“I know anyone can have a good race or a bad race, and I can only control myself, and I don’t know how fast you’re going to swim. Obviously, I felt like I had an outside shot,” Huske said. “The field I raced was so amazing, and there were so many amazing swimmers who are so renowned. You never can really control other people, so I feel like I didn’t really expect to make the team, but I was hopeful that I would.”

After that, Huske went on to finish fourth in the 100 fly at the Tokyo Olympics, missing out on an individual medal by just one hundredth, and then she helped the United States win Olympic silver in the women’s 400 medley relay. Shortly after the Olympics, Huske inked an agreenement with TYR that made her one of the first college swimmers to sign an endorsement deal.

Huske credited her huge 2021 improvement to detailed focus on her open turns, intense strength training and simply having an extra year of growth and preparation when the Olympics were delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. But plenty of swimmers show up to Trials physically primed to swim fast. Huske succeeded and excelled because she conquered one of the world’s most high-pressured swim meets, one that derails so many top-notch athletes with seeming ease.

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