Wilton Wahoo Hess is first in YMCA national age ranking

Long recognized as one of the country’s leading swim programs, the Wilton Y Wahoos have produced 26 national YMCA champions, 21 Olympic trial qualifiers, 15 world-ranked swimmers, and one Olympic silver medalist. Now, another young swimmer is already making his mark for the program.

He is Rory Hess, a 12-year-old Wilton resident who is ranked first nationally in his age group for YMCA swimming in the 50-yard butterfly.

“It feels unreal,” said Hess about his top spot in the rankings. “I did not even know about it until after the season at our annual Wahoo swim team banquet. I was recognized as an outstanding 12 and under [swimmer] for the season and my coach, Alex Baxter, listed my accomplishments and that is when I found out.”

Hess is also ranked 13th in the country by USA Swimming in the 200-yard butterfly. When asked if the butterfly is his favorite stroke, Hess replied, “by far.”

Hess comes from a family of swimmers. His mother, Bernadette, swam in high school. Both of his sisters swim competitively as well. The lineage was a contributing factor in getting Hess involved in the sport, and he also credits his first coach for encouraging and inspiring him to continue.

“I started swimming in the summer at Shore and Country Club [in Norwalk] six years ago when I was seven years old,” said Hess. “Kelly Devine was my first coach, and without her I would not be the swimmer I am today. Kelly was such an inspiration to me and encouraged me to work hard and have fun at a young age.”

While Hess continues to make a name for himself on the national stage, he is already something of a celebrity among his teammates and coaches in Wilton. He holds Wahoo program records for the 12-under age group in the 50-yard butterfly (25.95), 100-yard butterfly (56.95), 200-yard butterfly (2:06.27), 100-meter butterfly (1:08.91), and 200-meter butterfly (2:36.78).

At the 2016 Connecticut Age Group Championships in early March, he was the high-point scorer for the Wahoos, winning the 50- and 100-yard butterfly races and placing second in the 200-yard butterfly. Later that month, Hess won both the 100- and 200-yard butterflies and was third in the 50-yard butterfly at the 2016 Eastern Zone Short Course Championships.

“I feel like I performed the best at my final meet [of the short-course season], Eastern Zones, not only because I swam my best times but because I felt relaxed and calm,” said Hess. “At the Eastern Zones meet, all I had to do was swim. I felt like I had put my all into training and all the hard work was done.”

While Hess has established himself in the butterfly, he’s hoping to improve his other strokes.

“My goals for this upcoming season are to improve my backstroke and to work on my freestyle technique,” he said. “Also, because I am now swimming in the 13-14 age group, the 50-yard butterfly is not an event any more. This means I have to focus more on the 100 and 200.”

With the Wahoos, Hess believes he has the supporting cast to keep swimming faster.

“Our coaches know exactly what we need to focus on and design our practices around our weaknesses, so they become our strengths,” said Hess.