Aiden Hayes may not have tremendous perspective surrounding what he accomplished Tuesday at the U.S. Olympic Trials, taking place inside CHI Health Center in Omaha, Nebraska, where the swim team headed to the Tokyo Games will be selected.
He may be thinking he should have swam faster. Or he may have moved on from it, knowing he has much to do before returning home to Norman.
Tuesday, it was the 200 butterfly preliminaries in which he finished 21st in 1:59.32. The top 16 reached the semifinal round, with the finals following later Tuesday night.
Though it’s a couple of days before he returns to the competitive pool, Hayes has two more events in which he’ll attempt advancing beyond the preliminary stage.
Friday, it’s the 100 fly and Saturday, the 50 freestyle.
It’s his first Olympic Trials, he’s still a teenager and the Sooner Swim Club and Norman North product got to Omaha hoping to advance toward the Olympics in three different events.
The perspective that might be difficult to grasp following Tuesday’s 1:59.32, a touch off Hayes’ personal best 1:58.00?
Take a look at the official time sheet, produced by Omega Timing, and you’ll see that Zach Hartung qualified fastest, in 1:55.34; Nicolas Albiero next, in 1:56.13; Trenton Julian next, in 1:56.42. You might also notice Hartung, Albiero and Julian were born in 1997, 1999 and 1998, respectively. It’s right there on the sheet.
Hayes’ birth year is listed, too: 2003.
No swimmer faster than him was born in that year or later, only three were born in 2002 and 13 of 20 were not born this century. Among swimmers his age, in the 200 fly at least, no U.S. swimmer is Hayes’ equal.
Speaking to The Transcript late Tuesday, Ben Hayes, Aiden’s father and a coach himself, who assists Kent Nicholson with Sooner Swim Club and the Norman High and Norman North programs, called Aiden’s first turn at the Trials “a huge learning experience,” something bound to aid him as soon as Friday.
“It didn’t turn out the way he’d hoped, but the wisdom that he gained from something like that,” Ben said, “I think will set him up well in the future.”
Ben calls Aiden “a pure sprinter by nature,” pointing out that “these next two events are really in his wheelhouse.”
“The 200 butterfly is a race that he’s learning to swim,” Ben said.
Though still learning it, Aiden nonetheless has the fastest 18-and-under 200 fly time in the nation this year, hitting his personal best at a sectional meet at Jenks in March. Though he didn’t swim his best race Tuesday, it was still the fastest swam by any athlete classified as “junior” by USA Swimming.
Hayes is competing at the Trials on the heels of an historic Class 6A state meet in which he set new state records in the 50 free, 100 fly and 100 free, creating a new mark in each the first day of the event and breaking his own state record in each the following day.
The high school pool is just 25 yards long and the one at Omaha 50 meters, but Hayes is a veteran of both, having swam in several regional and national competitions alongside and since his high school experience.
In Tuesday night’s 200 fly finals, it wasn’t Hartung, Albeiro or Julian in front, but 19-year-old Luca Urlando, who finished in 1:55.21, significantly faster than the 1:56.94 he swam in preliminaries.
Perhaps anything can happen at the Trials.
Hayes has at least two races left to swim. If he’s fast enough, more.