Anyone flipping through a Northern Virginia Swimming League record book within the past few years has stumbled upon her name time and time again.
Janet Hu, a 16-year-old swimmer for Mosby Woods, entered July 28’s Division 4 Individual Championships at Hunt Valley Swim Club having shattered nine league records, some of which had stood for more than a decade.
Yet, even as she continues to set new records in older age groups, the emergence of a new Division 4 prodigy is rendering Hu’s old records more short-lived than anyone could have predicted.
Cassidy Bayer, a 12-year-old swimmer for Mount Vernon Park, seems to set new marks every time she enters a pool. This past weekend was no different, as each of her two races resulted in new records, both of which were once held by Hu.
Cassidy began the day with her favorite stroke, the 50-meter butterfly, which she swam in a new Girls’ 11- to 12-year-old league record of 28.49 seconds. That was hardly shocking, given she already had destoyed Hu’s previous mark of 30.03 last year.
The real challenge centered around Cassidy’s second and final race of the day, the Girls’ 11-12 100-meter Individual Medley. Hu still clung to the seemingly insurmountable 1 minute, 7.81 second record she set in 2008 — a gaudy result nearly seven full seconds clear of the next fastest mark. Cassidy actually swam a slightly faster time on July 23 at the IM Invitational at Little Hunting Park, but that did not constitute an official NVSL meet, meaning Hu’s record still stood.
“[The 50M butterfly] wasn’t my big concern of the day because I was proud of what I’ve done in the past,” Cassidy said. “I was focusing more on the IM because I really wanted that one.”
Sure enough, Cassidy swam the 100 IM in 1:06.77, bringing her fast-growing NVSL record total to four. She credited the victory, in part, to the IM stroke order, which begins with the butterfly before transitioning to the backstroke, breaststroke and freestyle.
Beginning with her specialty stroke allows Cassidy — whose favorite Olympic swimmer is newfound 100M butterfly world record holder Dana Vollmer — to quickly distance herself from her opponents before essentially gliding into cruise control with smooth, deliberate strokes.
Even before she could say much about her record performance, Cassidy was quick to point to all the small aspects of her stroke that she needed to continue working on, including butterfly kicks and breathing technique.
“She’s self-motivated; that’s the big thing,” said Paul Makin, Mount Vernon’s coach. “She knows what she wants to do, and she’s willing to work on the little things to make herself better. She knows she’s fast, but she also knows there’s always things to work on.”
Not to be completely outdone, Hu — a rising junior at Oakton — made some noise of her own in the 15-18 age group. Like her younger counterpart, Hu set new records in each of her races. Her 50M freestyle time of 26.27 seconds broke Amanda Kendall’s 2009 mark of 26.42, and Hu’s 50M backstroke time of 28.52 seconds beat Reanna Dona’s 2011 time of 29.18.
It has been a busy summer for Hu, who competed in the Olympic Trials in Omaha, Neb., in June. In addition to swimming in several events there, she also roomed with her friend Katie Ledecky, who went on to qualify as the youngest athlete on the U.S. squad.
Even with all the talent she carries, coaches insist Hu’s greatest strength might be her willingness to put team goals above her own.
“It’s good to have her around young kids because she’s so selfless,” said Mosby Woods coach David Banks. “She loves swimming and she’s determined to get records, but she’s not like you would expect someone who breaks records every week to be. She’s a team player.”
That self-effacing attitude applies not only to her team, but also her apparent rivals. While some might be wary about up-and-coming competitors dashing all their records, Hu looks at Cassidy in an admiring light.
“I’m really happy for her,” Hu said. “It’s awesome watching her swim. She has an amazing fly, so that was really exciting to watch.”