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NICK AGRO, STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Grant Shoults of Santa Margarita is the Register's Orange County boys swimmer of the year.

2015 Register's boys swimmer of the year: Grant Shoults, Santa Margarita

STAFF WRITER

Grant Shoults’ rapid progress in the pool reached a stage this spring that caught him pleasantly by surprise.

The Santa Margarita junior entered the realm of record-setter.

Shoults torpedoed the national private high school record in the 200-yard freestyle and broke the Orange County record in the 500 free to carve a lasting signature on the swimming season. For his efforts, he is the Register’s Orange County boys swimmer of the year.

“He definitely took it to the next notch,” Capistrano Valley boys coach Steve Yancey said of Shoults, who dueled with Yancey’s freestyle ace, Nick Norman.

Related:

All-County boys swimming and diving team

Boys swim coaches of the year: Damato, Weber, Laguna Beach

Shoults captured the 200 free at the CIF-SS Division 1 finals as a sophomore but emerged as a record-setting force at the meet earlier this month in Riverside.

The Mission Viejo Nadadores club swimmer broke the national private high school record in the 200 free by blazing a lifetime-best time of 1 minute, 34.54 seconds, less than a second off Tom Shields’ overall high school standard of 1:33.83 for Edison in 2009.

“It wasn’t one of my goals because I didn’t even know the time,” Shoults said of the national private school record, a 1:34.96 by three-time Olympian Joe Hudepohl of St. Xavier of Ohio in 1991.

“I was told I broke a (national record) record and I was, ‘What are you talking about?’”

Hudepohl’s standard previously stood as the overall national record until Shields smashed it as a senior.

Later in the Division 1 finals, Shoults out-dueled club teammate Norman in the 500 free to touch in an Orange County record and lifetime-best 4:15.56, breaking two-time Olympian Larsen Jensen’s 2003 record for Mission Viejo by more than a second. Shoults and Norman also both raced under the Division 1 record and clutched hands afterward.

Their times are the fastest in the nation, according to posted results by the National Interscholastic Swimming Coaches Association (NISCA).

“I knew we were going pretty fast,” said Shoults, whose 500 time would have placed seventh at this year’s NCAA Division 1 men’s meet. “(But) I didn’t think I was going to go 4:15. I looked up at the board and was shocked.”

Shoults credits his progression to racing older and faster swimmers on the U.S. circuit as well his physical maturity.

His ascent began last summer when he made the U.S. junior national team. The roll continued with a strong showing in December at a club meet in Oklahoma with the Nadadores.

Shoults then opened his high school season by clocking a school-record 1:48.33 in the 200 individual medley. The time from March 5 finished third in the county.

“Grant still has his best swimming ahead of him,” Santa Margarita co-coach Ron Blanc said.

But for all his personal success, Shoults is proud of the Eagles’ sixth place in Division 1. He also fondly recalls playing Hacky Sack to music with teammates during a break at the Division 1 prelims.

“I just try to keep it fun,” he said. “High school swimming is so fun.”

And this spring, few did it better than the record-setting Shoults.

Contact the writer: dalbano@ocregister.com


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