By Aaron Gabriel//Contributor | Tuesday, October 29, 2019
High school-aged swimmers are getting smarter, and faster.
That is the undeniable conclusion from USA Swimming’s recent Scholastic All-America tally, which saw another sharp increase in the total number of swimmers attaining the honor.
To be eligible for this lofty recognition, student-athletes must have completed one of their four high school years with a 3.5 GPA (on a 4.0 scale) or better, with no grade lower than a C.
And in the pool, it’s perhaps even more challenging. Applicants must also have achieved an individual junior national championship cut or, in the case of open water and disability/para, raced in one of a select handful of championship level events.
Despite those stringent standards, it was a year of record achievement.
A total of 1,634 athletes were awarded the honor, the highest total yet. It was nearly evenly shared between boys (828) and girls (808).
The junior class was the best of the bunch, accounting for more than one-third of the total Scholastic All-Americans from 2018-19 with 568 selections.
Two of those juniors somehow managed to produce perfect scores.
In addition to excelling in the classroom, both Emma Weyant of the Sarasota Sharks and Regan Smith of the Riptide Swim Team delivered Scholastic All-America scores that will never be surpassed. Their accomplishment was the result of extraordinary pool performances, as both were Phillips 66 Summer National champions in early August.
Weyant took a big step forward at nationals, winning the 400-meter IM with a huge time drop to a personal best 4:35.47. That performance earned her a spot on the National Team. She also delivered a sixth-place finish in the 800 free. It all marks a steady ascent for Weyant, who in 2018 was a Junior Pan-Pac champion in the 400 IM.
She has made a verbal commitment to extend her academic and swimming careers at Virginia.
Smith, meanwhile, had a spectacular summer in the pool. She won the 200-meter backstroke at the FINA World Championships in her only individual race, smashing the world record in the process. Elevated to the 400 medley relay on the strength of that performance, Smith produced a 100 back world record with her lead-off split, which helped the U.S. women break the relay world record. She added to her memorable season with win at summer nationals in the 200 fly.
Both athletes are proof that thriving in the pool need not come at the expense of academic slacking. In fact, for Smith, it’s the other way around.
“I have more time to myself than I think other people realize,” said Smith. “For me, being involved in a lot of things just means I need to manage my time really well. I still have plenty of time for the normal things – hanging with my friends and family, petting the dogs and playing with them. I just find that I’m more motivated to get the other stuff done quickly.”
Smith says that despite her strong academic history, getting great grades has never been easy. That made this year’s Scholastic All-America recognition even more satisfying.
“School always stresses me out,” Smith said, “but I think if anything that has helped me improve my time-management skills. I have tried to make it not just about swimming, not just about school – to spread my interests out. I always feel like it’s good to have some variety in what you’re doing, and then focus on them, one at a time.”
Breaking world records tends to also bring a different, external level of time management concerns. Still, Smith said she enjoyed spending the better part of a recent week taping for an upcoming net series called “Prodigy,” which will focus on exceptionally high achievers across a broad swath of disciplines.
Mostly, though, she’s enjoying her senior year, in advance of a collegiate future at defending NCAA champion Stanford. Smith currently expects to follow a field very generally related to health care – perhaps some version of sports medicine, nursing or therapy – yet adds with a laugh that, like most in her age bracket she’s likely, “to change my major about a dozen times.”
Just a normal high school senior, who says this last year of school in her hometown of Lakeville, Minn. is flying by. But also a senior who’s a three-time world record holder with a perfect Scholastic All-American score already under her belt.“Sometimes people at school ask me, ‘Are you excited for the Summer Olympics?’ ” Smith said. “And I have to tell them, ‘Whoa, I’m not even on the team yet.’ ”