Andrew Seliskar has been a big name in local swimming circles for years, but 2013 will go down as the year he became a talking point across the country.
Much of the buzz came in August from the Junior National Championships in Irvine, California, where Seliskar took down Michael Phelps’s 15-16 National Age Group record in the 200 IM. The youngest swimmer in his final heat, Seliskar came away with a blistering time of 2:00.26, more than half-a-second faster than the 2:00.86 Phelps put up in 2001.
Seliskar, who turned 17 in September, wasn’t done making his mark on the national stage. In December, the Thomas Jefferson High junior took gold in the 400-yard IM at the USA Swimming Winter National Championships, a prestigious event featuring college and professional swimmers. He emerged as the event’s male high point winner, standing alongside Missy Franklin for that honor.
Seliskar, a National Honor Society member at Jefferson, has established himself not only as the country’s No. 1 recruit in the Class of 2015, but also as an athlete potentially in line for Olympic greatness.
Question: 2013 was a year full of accomplishments for you. Which one is your favorite and why?
Answer: Not entirely sure if I could choose a “favorite” moment from this past year, but AT&T Nationals is still fresh in my mind from last month. I was really pleased with all of my swims there at the meet and even happier with the way the team swam as a whole. Nations Capital Swim Club placed first overall in the club-team rankings, beating out professional swimmers and college groups with our age group swimmers.
Q: Did breaking Michael Phelps’s record in the 200 medley surprise you? Was that something you had been aiming to do?
A: That 200 IM record was a goal that I had my eyes on all season, and I was really happy when I was able to break it. Breaking the record set by Phelps at a 2:00.7 in the IM was something I am still really proud of, but I was more focused on reaching my individual goal of breaking the 2:00 minute barrier in the event. I think that having broken that record and achieving my time goal has been very encouraging in training over the past months, motivating me to work harder in and out of the pool to accomplish as much as I can in the coming seasons.
Q: That accomplishment put you in some conversations as one of the next great American swimmers. How are you handling mounting expectations, and what do you ultimately hope to accomplish as a swimmer?
A: I try not to focus too much on outside influences when I swim. I know that If I can continue to strive for my own personal goals, and be continually motivated internally by my own means, then I can hopefully swim to the best of my abilities. I just really enjoy swimming and competing, and as long as I’m having fun in training and at meets, then I’ll continue to swim my best. Ultimately, I just hope to represent my high school, club and national teams as best I can in the coming meets, and have fun doing so.
Q: You earned gold in the 200 fly at the Junior World Championships in Dubai in August. What was that experience like for you?
A: Dubai was an awesome meet from a team perspective, and from my own individual swimming perspective as well. It provided valuable experience in terms of swimming on an international scale. This was one of the first major meets that I was able to put on a Team USA cap and represent our country, and it was also a great opportunity to get to know other young swimmers from around the country and around the world. I really began to realize the vast landscape that was international competition, and was able to do so with some of the best teammates and coaches from across the country.
Q: As a sophomore earlier this year, you won your fourth individual state title and became a nine-time All-American. What do you have in store for the high school swim scene this season?
A: I’m not entirely sure what lies ahead this year for myself on the Thomas Jefferson swim squad. TJ, having moved down to the 5A level of competition for this season on the state level, as well as with the new conference layout, I can’t say much for sure for the rest of this high school season. I am, however, very excited to represent my school and teammates as we compete in the new year with our relay teams and in my own individual events. I really enjoy high school swimming and look forward to racing in a high-energy environment.
Q: A lot of big-time swimmers tend to be exceptionally tall, but you don’t have the kind of length that some of your competitors bring to the table. What allows you to beat those guys? What are your biggest strengths as a swimmer?
A: I think that one of my biggest strengths as an athlete is my ability to be mentally and physically ready for an event. I know that whatever effort I put in during practice before the big meet, and whatever mental preparation I make before the race is what will set me apart from my competitors, regardless of size.
Q: Who are your biggest influences as a swimmer?
A: I grew up watching my older brother, Stephen, who now swims at Purdue University, compete in high-level meets. I think he and the rest of my family really motivate me to reach my full potential as a swimmer and have given me a love for the sport itself.
Q: Last but certainly not least, your rock band Seahorse Yesterday really seemed to take off over the summer. How’s the group holding up these days? What can the adoring public expect next from these guys?
A: Seahorse Yesterday is doing great! With many of the members off at college, our lead singer and myself are the only ones who were home in Virginia throughout the fall season. We are in the process of finalizing our Christmas album, “A Very Seahorse Christmas,” which is set to hit the shelves in the near future.