One of the world's best swimmers under the age of 18 competes for Saint Ignatius High School.
USA Swimming has named Tyler Hong to its World 100 List as one of the world's best 100 swimmers under 18 in the 200 IM. As of publication, Hong sits at 90th in the world in the 200 IM. That's pretty impressive for a 16-year old.
Hong heard the news from his mom, Kyoko. She texted him in all caps, "YOU'RE THE TOP 100 FOR 200 IM!"
"I felt really accomplished," said Hong. "I really did not think I was that high up. I still think it's really crazy. I feel like there's a lot more I can accomplish, but I'm really happy about it."
As USA Swimming writes, "the World 100 List seeks to spread the excitement of international swimming amongst a wide audience of 18 & Unders by recognizing the USA’s highest world-ranked athletes. This ranking was done based upon each athlete’s highest 18 & Under world-ranked event."
Hong has plenty of reason to be proud of this accomplishment. The honor comes as a result of countless hours of hard work. Hong trains year-round in the pool and in the weight room to be the best. He frequently travels, including recent trips to the Junior Nationals in December and to the US Olympic Training Center in September.
"It's not very often that you coach a World 100 swimmer," said Wildcats' head coach Mike Lehto. "And still, he's not even at the top of the age group yet, so he can continue to climb the rankings. It's a huge honor. I'm not sure how long they've done this ranking, but it's a pretty slim that we've had another Wildcat on this list. I'd also be interested to see others from Northeast Ohio on this list. Across the board, he's a pretty great swimmer. He's competitive across the board in whatever event he does."
It's hard to over-emphasize Hong's talent level. To be recognized as one of the best swimmers in the world is very special. Hong's talent level is such that his season will not end with the OHSAA State Meet.
Instead, Hong will compete in the 2020 Canadian Olympic Trials in Toronto from March 30-April 5.
Hong has qualified in 7 events for the time trials. A Canadian though his mom's side, Hong hopes to represent Canada on their national team in the Olympics and beyond.
"He won't be at his very best at States, as his focus is going to be the Olympic time trials," Lehto said. "His training a little different. He'll still be swimming at States, but the Olympics is definitely the priority, and should be. Even still, he'll be an integral part of his relays and he'll be great individually. He's one of the fastest in the State in the 100 free. His variety is incredible."
Hong's ceiling is limitless. Lehto has noticed improvement from Hong all throughout his time at Saint Ignatius.
"This year, I've seen a little more intensity with him," Lehto said. "He's getting focused on the end of the season and beyond with the time trials. His times across the board are faster than in the past. He's better in college events, such as the 400 IM and 200 strokes, but he's a very talented high school swimmer."
Even with the prospect of heading to the Olympics, Hong is focused on his long-term goals instead of being pre-occupied with short-term ones.
"I'm really excited, but also really nervous," Hong said. "I want to do well at States, but I'll be holding back a little bit because I have to get ready for the Canadian trials and see how much I can do there.
"It's a dream of mine to go to the Olympics, of course. But I have to be reasonable – I'm going for the experience and a chance at making their junior team for Nationals. I'm thinking about my long-term goals, instead of the short-term ones."
But first, Hong can't wait for the postseason. The journey to Canton begins with the Sectional Meet on Thursday at Cleveland State University's Robert Busbey Natatorium.
"Our team is doing really great this season. I'm really stoked for the postseason and how it's going to turn out."