Teen makes a splash in competitions

Central's Josh Bey qualified for Olympic trials, placed sixth in the world at juniors

How do you top winning state, breaking a relay record and having your high school swim team named No. 1 in the country?

By placing sixth in the world in the 200-yard breaststroke.

Hinsdale Central junior Josh Bey, a member of Highland Hurricanes Swim Club in Indiana, swam the event in 2:14.56 at the World Junior Swimming Championships last month in Netanya, Israel. Despite making the finals, Bey was not satisfied with his results.

"My swim definitely wasn't what I was looking for. I wasn't happy about it. There also were a lot of factors behind that," he said, noting the eight-hour time difference and that this was his first competition

outside of the U.S.

"I wasn't exactly prepared for that meet, which kind of made this meet more of a learning experience for future meets in other countries," he said.

His dad, Jim Bey, who wasn't able to attend the meet, tried to console Josh via texts and phone calls, reminding him it was an accomplishment just to make it to the finals.

"I wanted to be there," Jim said. "I wanted to give him a hug and I couldn't do it. I was thousands of miles away."

Jim said he and other parents are relieved the competition took place when it did, not four weeks later when Hamas attacked Israel, igniting a war.

"I don't know what I would have done. I couldn't have gone over there and pulled him out," Jim said, noting that flights were canceled in and out of Tel Aviv. "I couldn't imagine what we'd be going through right now.

Headed to time trials

Fortunately Bey has other accomplishments to celebrate. He swam the 200-yard breaststroke in 2:14.35 in preliminaries at the Speedo Sectionals in Indianapolis in March, which qualified him to complete in the USA Olympic Team Trials in June 2024. He also qualified at the meet to compete in the 100- and 200-meter breaststroke in the Phillips 66 National Championships this summer (see sidebar).

"That was definitely my breakout meet for me to become a swimmer who had potential to make team USA at an international level," he said.

He earned another berth at the Phillips 66 meet, when his preliminary time of 2:13.39 in the 200 breast qualified him to compete at the junior worlds.

Bey hopes to qualify for the Olympic trials in the 100-yard breaststroke as well when he swims at the U.S. Open Nov. 29 to Dec. 2 in Greensboro, N.C. He missed the cut by .25 seconds at the Phillips 66 meet.

"Based off how I've been training recently, with good rest, I think I definitely should get that cut," he said. "What I'm looking to do there is make an international meet again. Olympics would definitely be a long shot for me, but they are holding Junior Pan Pacific Championships in Australia in 2024."

Typically talent like Bey's is rare on a high school team, Central varsty swim head coach Bob Barber said, noting that the team has an exceptional group of swimmers right now.

"We all knew just how talented Josh was going to be. We didn't know at what level he was going to take it," Barber said. "As he progressed through his first two years of high school, we knew we had something special at such a young age. When he finally gets a chance to swim rested, he's virtually unstoppable."

Realizing a dream

Bey, who has been swimming competitively since he was 5, comes from a family of swimmers. His great uncle swam in the Olympics for Cuba, his dad swam at Iowa State, and his grandpa trained with his great uncle for the Cuban national swim team. Bey said he's always loved water.

"I loved the pool. I loved going in Lake Michigan or anything like that from a really young age," he said. "My family kind of knew I was going to be a swimmer from very early on."

He said he's dreamt of earning state and national titles since he was about 9 years old. More recently he realized he might be able to look behind this country's borders.

"Once I hit 15, I kind of realized there is more to USA swimming than just state and national competitions, and I could compete against other countries and represent my own. That's when I really wanted to start training more as an international swimmer than a national-level swimmer."

Bey credits his club and high school coaches for helping him reach his goals.

"All the coaching I have received in the past three years has just been wonderful, and it helped me so much," he said.

Barber said Bey has been lucky to work with a host of different coaches, including those at the weeklong camps he's been invited to attend.

"He's a sponge for all of the professional criticism and tries to implement as much as possible," Barber said.

Bey's ultimate goal as a swimmer is to be the fastest in the world.

"Breaking a world record would be very cool, because you set something that will be documented for years to come. Whether it gets broken or not, people will look up my name and see I was a world record-holder at one point in my life, which I find really special," he said.

Wherever and whenever that might occur, dad Jim likely will be in the stands cheering Josh on. He's looking forward to seeing his son swim on a big stage in June. For the first time, the trials are taking place inside an NFL venue - Lucas Oil Stadium in downtown Indianapolis.

"I'm so excited for the Olympic trials to be in that building with 30,000 (spectators) and watching my son," Jim said. "It makes me shiver. It makes the hair on my arms stand up."

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Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean