As a 12 year old, Andrew Gibson would be a top-seeded swimmer at the Eastern Zone Championships that start today. He almost certainly would have won events and maybe even broken some records.
But at 13, Gibson will be fighting to final in his six events, competing against more seasoned swimmers as he represents Potomac Valley Swimming at the meet in State College, Pa.
On Aug. 1, Andrew Gibson became a teenager. He went to an Italian restaurant to celebrate the day with his family. Thirteen is a milestone, to be sure, but for Gibson it’s also an inconvenience that could very well keep him from the top finishes to which he’s become accustomed. The issue annually afflicts Gibson, forcing him to compete at zones almost every year against faster swimmers.
USA Swimming’s rules state that swimmers must compete in the age group corresponding to their actual ages on the first day of a meet. The rule for FINA, the group that regulates international swimming, is that your age on Jan. 1 is the age you’ll swim at for the entire year.
Still, Gibson, who swims summer league for Westleigh of the Montgomery County Swim League where age group is determined by your age as of June 1, seemed relatively unfazed.
“I’ll be at the bottom of my age group, but I’m still trying to do good,” Gibson said.
He enters the 100-meter freestyle seeded 21st, the 200 freestyle ranked 43rd. He is ninth in the 200 backstroke, and seeded sixth in the 100 backstroke. In the 200 individual medley, he enters with the 21st best time; he is 37th in the 50 freestyle. His times, among 11- and 12-year-old boys, would have seeded him first in three events (100 and 200 back and 200 IM), second in two (100 and 200 freestyle) and fourth in one (50 free).
“It’s kind of disappointing because I looked at the seeds for the 12 year olds and I would have been first in most of my events,” he said.
Still, where he places won’t affect his times. Rockville-Montgomery Swim Club coach Dave Greene, who coaches Gibson year round and is guiding the PVS team, said Gibson is one of the fastest swimmers in the area.
“He’s just scratching the surface of how good he’s going to be,” Greene said.
Gibson broke the 200-meter backstroke record for 11- and 12-year-old boys at last month’s PVS age-group championship in East Laurel. His brother, Matt Gibson, is 14 and another PVS record holder.
“I think Andrew is going to be better than his brother,” Greene said.
Gibson is one of 136 swimmers competing for PVS. That number is lower this year, Greene said, because the meet is one week later than in past years and is competing with family vacation time. Last year, when zones were hosted by RMSC, 162 local athletes competed.
Some swimmers, like PVS standouts Harrison and Elaina Gu, are on vacation.
“I know there’s probably a lot of top level swimmers who would have competed” if it was a week earlier, Greene said.
Additionally, the Far Eastern, a new meet hosted by North Baltimore Aquatic club, was held last weekend and many swimmers, including a number from Curl Burke, competed there, ending their summer season early and forgoing zones.
RMSC did not attend the Far Eastern, Greene said, to give his swimmers a rest.
“I’m sure it was a wonderful time and I like the idea of it,” he said. “But if I had my kids swim that they would have competed 11 straight weekends.”