Swimmer breaks records, is among fastest in nation

Arthur Wu and Jason Lin

Palo Alto High School junior Ethan Harrington dives into the pool at the CIF State Swimming and Diving Championships on May 14. At States, Harrington won both of his events in the 50- and 100-yard freestyle. According to SwimSwam, he also broke two of the longest-standing Central Coast Section records a week before, one of which was in the 50-yard freestyle, in which he clocked a final time of 19.73 seconds. “The time shows me how I compare to people now like Caleb Dressel or the other really big Olympians,” Harrington said. “It’s nice to see how close I am to them when they were 16. I think they would still be faster than me, but I’m close.” (Photo: David Gormley)

Over the past month, Palo Alto High School junior Ethan Harrington has won race after race in both the Central Coast Section Championship and the California Interscholastic Federation State Swimming and Diving Championships, becoming one of the fastest swimmers of his age group in the nation, according to Swimming Rank.

Harrington won multiple races in the CCS championship on May 7, breaking two CCS records that both stood for 13 years: the 50-yard freestyle and the 400-yard freestyle relay.

Harrington swam a 50 free time of 19.73 seconds, beating the previous record set by Shayne Fleming in 2009, which stood at 19.89 seconds. According to Harrington, he did not expect to swim such a fast time in the 50 free.

“Historically, the 50 [free] is not my thing,” Harrington said. “I normally swim the 100 [free] because I’m just not as good at the 50 [free], but it all somehow clicked. I had a really good start, good turn, good underwater.”

Harrington said the 50 free is extremely different from the 100 free, having more of an emphasis on speed.

“It’s a pretty big deal for me because now it’s better than my 100 [free], so it might change how I focus on my training,” Harrington said. “I’m the fastest now and that’s how I have to think about it.”

According to SwimSwam, Harrington’s time makes him the 12th fastest in the nation historically for the age group of 15-16 in the 50 free. Harrington’s success was a result of both his own efforts and the motivation to continue to compete and perform well in the pool, according to Paly Head Swimming and Diving Coach Danny Dye.

“He has worked hard to represent his school and team,” Dye stated in an email. “He has been a dedicated Viking and his team means a lot to him.”

Harrington was also the first swimmer in the 400-free-relay, with a time of 3:00.25, breaking yet another record set by Saratoga High School in 2009. At CCS, Paly went on to win nine out of 11 events and the league championship.

As a result of his performance at CCS, Harrington was nominated for the Mercury News Athlete of the Week for the week of May 9. According to Harrington, although he didn’t win the award, he was still proud of being nominated.

“It’s just nice to be recognized for all the work I’ve put in to win my events at CCS and States,” Harrington said.

Harrington also competed in the CIF State Swimming and Diving Championships on May 14, winning both of his events in the 50 free and 100 free. According to Harrington, there was a lot of pressure on States compared to previous competitions.

“I wasn’t expecting to be seeded first in both of my events, and I knew a couple people I raced with, and they were very fast,” Harrington said.

Harrington’s two victories were part of Paly’s strong effort in the competition, which allowed the Vikings to rank third in the state, just behind Loyola High School and Santa Margarita Catholic High School.

“A lot of us [Vikings] swam best times,” Harrington said. “A lot of us made it all the way to finals, which is a pretty big deal at States.”

According to Harrington, he was extremely proud of not only his accomplishments, but also the rest of the team’s accomplishments and spirit throughout the season.

“Many of my teammates came to watch CCS even though they weren’t swimming,” Harrington said. “They didn’t have to come, but they did. It showed how they were still part of the team. They were still with us and cheering us on, which was amazing.”