Federal Way teen swimmer, Thomas Anderson, is Olympic dreaming

Thomas Anderson, 14, won nine gold medals at the recent Pacific Northwest Swimming Long Course Championships at the King County Aquatic Center for his club team, King Aquatics. He also helped a relay team set a national record.  - Jennifer Vertetis, For the Mirror
Thomas Anderson, 14, won nine gold medals at the recent Pacific Northwest Swimming Long Course Championships at the King County Aquatic Center for his club team, King Aquatics. He also helped a relay team set a national record.
— image credit: Jennifer Vertetis, For the Mirror

Good things happen when you work hard at something. Just ask Federal Way teenager Thomas Anderson.

The 14-year-old has logged hours and hours inside the swimming pool at the King County Aquatic Center and it’s paying off big time. All the hard work has led to Anderson becoming one of the premier junior swimmers in the United States.

“If you really want it, you need to go after it,” Anderson said. “Give it your best shot.”

Anderson definitely went after it at the recent Pacific Northwest Swimming (PNS) Long Course Championships at the Aquatic Center. During the meet, which was attended by approximately 1,000 swimmers from around Washington, Anderson won six individual race titles and three relay championships.

Included in those wins were three PNS 14-under records and five swims that were among the seven best times in the United States. Anderson won the 50-meter freestyle (24.79), 200 breaststroke (2:26.18), 100 backstroke (59.25), 100 breaststroke (1:08.74), 200 free (1:59.50), 400 free relay (3:46.03) and 400 medley relay (4:08.02).

But the most impressive of those wins came in the 200 medley relay. Anderson’s King Aquatic team set a national age-group record with a time of 1:52.78. Anderson swam the leadoff backstroke leg and was followed by Mitch Hovis, Koppi Kolyvek and Zach Johnson. The old record was set by the Irvine (Calif.) Aquazot in 2008.

Individually, the 100 back is Anderson’s best event. His time last week was the third best in the country and qualified him to swim at the 2012 Speedo Junior Nationals, which will run Aug. 13-17 in Indianapolis. He will also swim the 50 free, 200 breaststroke and the relays at the meet.

“I’ve always thought that would be a great experience,” Anderson said. “I’m just going to keep a positive attitude.”

Attending the national-level meet is just the first step in Anderson’s goal-setting strategy that goes along with the extremely individual sport of swimming.

Anderson’s long-term goals are pretty simple. By the time he’s 16, he wants to make a final at the Junior Nationals, meaning top-eight. And at 18, Anderson wants to be in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, competing at the 2016 Summer Olympic Games.

“That’s a realistic goal, but it’s not going to be easy,” Anderson said. “There are so many people in the U.S. that swim that it’s going to be hard. But it’s a good goal to set. All swimmers who are serious about it, want to go to the Olympics.”

Anderson is definitely putting in the hours in the swimming pool to accomplish those lofty goals.

Anderson started swimming competitively at the age of 11 and now is in the pool seven days a week for three to four hours every day. He has been with the vaunted King Aquatic Club since he was 12 and swims between between a mile and a half and three miles every practice.

“I have had some great resources,” Anderson said. “King has just worked for me.”

But even the hardest worker in the pool isn’t guaranteed a spot in the Olympics. There are some genetics involved with becoming one of the top swimmers in the United States. Gold medalists like Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte and Nathan Adrian are all over 6-foot-2 with huge feet and hands. At 14, Anderson is already 5-foot-11 with size 14 feet.

“Big and flat feet are good for swimmers for some reason,” Anderson said. “And I have both.”

“I would love for someone to pay his shoe bill,” said his mother, Dana, with a laugh. “His feet are huge and they are only going to get bigger.”

Anderson will be a ninth-grader in the fall and will attend Federal Way High School part time, while being home schooled by his mother to accommodate his hectic swim schedule. But he is planning on swimming as a freshman for the Eagles.

Anderson has also starred for years on the Marine Hills summer swim team and holds multiple club records. He started swimming for the Marlins as a 9-year-old. His mom also was a record-holder for Marine Hills before swimming at Federal Way.

“There was a rule that I couldn’t go in a boat or too deep in the water if I didn’t’ know how to swim,” Anderson said. “That’s why I got started.”

Anderson also helped Marine Hills win the Seattle Summer Swim League All-City title last year for the first time in the program’s history.

Marine Hills will attempt for back-to-back All-City titles starting Tuesday at Arbor Heights.

“(Marine Hills) gives you a little break from the year-round swimming,” Anderson said. “It’s a little more fun.”

But, for now, Anderson is just going to keep working hard in the pool with the goal at swimming at the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio.

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