Like many 10-year-olds, Regan Smith likes to swim.
Only, when it comes to racing to the edge of the pool, she’s faster than any kid, ever.
Regan set four national records for her age group earlier this month at a club swim meet at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul.
She was the best-ever in the nation in the 50- and 100-yard backstroke as well as the 50 and 100 butterfly, breaking records set by individuals who grew up to become Olympians and NCAA champions.
“There’s no guarantee of anything,” said Phil Smith (no relation), one of her coaches with the South Metro Storm Swim Club in Lakeville. “She certainly has the potential.”
Regan said she was shocked after setting all those records.
“It had always been a huge goal of mine to just set one record,” Regan said. “But when I set four, I couldn’t believe it.”
One day she would like to swim in the Olympics, but for now she’s focused on the state swim meet in March.
As a fifth-grader at Oak Hills Elementary, her favorite subject is math. When she’s not swimming, she’s reading, shopping and running, but she always finds herself back in the pool.
“I love how interactive it is, to always be with your friends, and I’ve always loved the water,” she said.
Physically, she’s a little taller than her peers, but nothing out of the ordinary.
“The most impressive thing is that she can hold her form and she’s very strong,” Phil Smith said. “She’s got great core strength and she’s a great under-water swimmer.”
Swimming at this level is a year-round activity, but Regan isn’t getting too far ahead of herself.
“For better or worse, you have to specialize,” said her father Paul Smith. “She loves it. They’re always cautious with swimmers under the age of 11. There are many examples of kids setting records at 10 that go on to have storied careers, but there are other examples of kids who got tired and quit. For Regan, it’s more important that she’s enjoying it. Luckily she doesn’t stress out. She’s very unflappable. She does what she wants.”
Regan has been with Storm swim club since she was 7 and her coaches picked up on her ability right away.
“Her dad didn’t really know what group to put her in,” coach Phil Smith said. “You could tell she held the water well. The manipulation of the water is something you can pick up, but she had a natural grasp of the water.”
Her physical ability may be unmatched, but her attitude is what carries her.
“She has enthusiasm I wish we could carry into adulthood,” coach Phil Smith said. “She’s always asking about racing. I don’t see a hint of arrogance. Most of the time she comes to practice with a smile on her face.”
She holds nine Minnesota records out of the 12 possible, as well.
In a few weeks she’ll be greeted with a new challenge by turning 11, which puts her in a new age group with 11- and 12-year-olds.
She’ll still have some of the top backstroke times in the nation, with two years to set more records.