Johnny Bradshaw’s aquatic prowess is well known in McLean swimming circles, but no one was quite ready for his performance in the 50-meter backstroke last Saturday, not even the timers. As the 10-year-old Hamlet Swim Club standout bounded for the wall, his older brother, Chase, scrambled to get his fellow timers into position.
“I was getting people over there because they weren’t ready to get his time since he was so far ahead of everyone else,” said Chase, who gets credit for serving as his brother’s “legs” to propel him in the absence of starting blocks at Lakevale Estates. “I was like, ‘You guys gotta get over here!’”
The stop watches made it to the wall just in time to record 33.37 seconds, the fastest 9-10 boys’ backstroke mark in Northern Virginia Swim League history. Bradshaw’s effort put him past Virginia Run’s Andy Richardson, whose 34.12 mark had remained in the record books since 1999.
“I was just trying my hardest and going as fast as I could,” Bradshaw said. “I was like, ‘With the time, you can’t really control that while you’re swimming, so just go as fast as you can and see what happens.’”
Parents and teammates went wild for Bradshaw’s achievement, but the young Green Feet swimmer wasn’t done wowing the crowd. The 25-meter butterfly presented another opportunity to show off an arsenal of strokes that makes Bradshaw one of the most well-rounded swimmers in the area. He didn’t disappoint, completing the fly in a mere 14.58 seconds to edge the NVSL record set by Fair Oaks’ Anthony Grimm at last year’s all-star meet by .09 seconds.
Bradshaw’s big day puts another feather in the cap of a year brimming with accomplishments. He kicked off his summer league season in emphatic fashion three weeks ago, putting up a time of 29.59 to become the first 10-and-under in league history to post a sub-30-second swim in the 50-meter freestyle. That record surpassed the 30.16 mark set by Little Rocky Run’s James Murphy, a Robinson Secondary standout who has gone on to become an accomplished junior national level swimmer.
Perhaps Bradshaw’s most noteworthy feat came in April, when he led his 10-and-under relay team to a pair of national age group records at the NASA Showcase Classic in Clearwater, Florida. Competing for his former club team, The FISH, Bradshaw swam the lead-off breaststroke leg in the 200-yard medley relay, helping record a time of 2 minutes, 1.82 seconds. That lowered the 2:02.48 mark set by Blue Tide Aquatics (Houston, Texas) in 1998.
The boys churned out a 1:47.92 time the next day in the 200-yard freestyle relay, knocking a half-second off the previous record set by New York-based Westchester Aquatic Club in 2012. They also posted the fastest times in the boys’ 400 freestyle and 400 medley relays since 2002.
“It’s really special to share [records] with your teammates,” said Bradshaw, who was the top-ranked 10-and-under swimmer in the country in the 50-yard freestyle during the short-course season with The FISH. “The whole team gets pumped up for the relays, so when something like that happens it’s really exciting.”
Bradshaw’s versatility is something to behold. In addition to his top freestyle ranking, the Machine Aquatics swimmer ranked third nationally in the 50 back and 50 fly, fifth in the 200 free, sixth in the 100 free and 100 back and ninth in the 100 fly during the short-course season.
Even with all those accolades, though, Bradshaw’s coaches are most impressed with his willingness to put the team before himself.
“He’s such a team player. He’s so supportive,” said Hamlet swim coach Meghan Overend, a Langley High grad. “My favorite thing is to watch him watch his little brother swim because you can see him cheering so loud for Ryan and for all the kids. Seeing him go up to Ryan after the race is awesome.”
With two more dual meets, divisionals and all-stars still to come, Bradshaw will get plenty more opportunities to rewrite the record books. Breaststroke and IM records should be particularly wary.
“I’m really happy for him,” said Chase, 14. “There’s nothing better than seeing your brother accomplish great things, so I’m really proud of him.”