Youm sets sights on state and beyond

After being named the Class 4A Swimmer of the Year last season as a sophomore, Decatur’s Joon Youm is back in the water — and still winning — in his junior year of swimming.

“I’ve swam with him since we were 10, and he’s passed me up,” said Decatur teammate Tyson Sullivan. “He’s definitely one of the leaders on the team — someone for everyone to look up to.”

Youm won two state titles last season and was named the Class 4A Swimmer of the Year.

He also earned All-American honors in two events. Youm finished the 200-yard individual medley in 1:53.15 and the 100-yard breaststroke in 0:57.01. Youm’s time in the IM was the second-fastest time in the nation by a high school sophomore last season. His time in the breaststroke was the seventh-fastest time in the nation by any high school swimmer.

This year, Youm says he doesn’t feel any pressure to win. He’s already gained his state qualifying times in both events. The state meet will be Feb. 15-16 at the Weyerhaeuser King County Aquatic Center.

“I hope I win state again,” Youm said of his goals for this year.

Making things easier for Youm at state is the fact that state runner-up Mason Amick, a Mountain View sophomore, is not swimming for his high school team this season.

But Youm said his swimming goals extend beyond the state meet. He’ll attempt to make the U.S. national team in March.

“I’m going to try to make my national cut this year,” Youm said. “I probably won’t taper (rest) for the state meet.”

To make the national cut, Youm must swim the 200-meter breaststroke in 2:02, the 100-meter breaststroke in 0:56.5, and the 200-meter individual medley in 1:50.

“I worked hard and went to weight room a lot didn’t miss a lot of practice,” Youm said. “I just want to get this cut.”

“He’s set his sights on moving to the next level,” King Aquatics coach Jerry Olszewski has said. “As far as males in America, he’s real young to move to that next level, but he’s got a real good shot at doing that. He’s put in the work.”

Youm moved with his family to the United States six years ago. He still listens to Korean music on headphones before he races. He started swimming with his family to get in shape when he was in kindergarten in South Korea.

“All I remember is just floating there on the water doing nothing,” Youm said about his first swimming experience. “This guy kept moving me up to different groups. Two years later I figured out I was in the highest-level group. I didn’t take it seriously until then.”

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