Local Swimmer Tess Howley Brings Home the Gold

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 Rockaway’s swim star Tess Howley continues to impress. The 16-year-old Neponsit resident recently returned from Europe where she participated as part of Team USA in the FINA Swimming World Cup. Howley came home with some new accolades to her name including a few broken records, a couple medals, including gold, and a new title as the fastest teenager in the world this year in the 200m butterfly.

Howley made waves this summer when she returned home to a big Rockaway-style welcome parade in June after competing in the 2020 Summer Olympic trials. While the 16-year-old Sacred Heart Academy student and Long Island Aquatic Club (LIAC) swimmer didn’t make it to the Olympics this year, she made her hometown proud. And she hasn’t stopped.

Howley and LIAC teammate Cavan Gormsen were recently selected to represent Team USA in the 2021 FINA World Cup. In their first international team experience, Howley and Gormsen left for Berlin, Germany on September 28 for the competition that continued on to Budapest, Hungary on October 7, with a 44-member co-ed team.

Howley immediately showed her power in her best and arguably one of the toughest events—the 200-meter butterfly. On October 1 in Berlin, Howley swam a 2:06.09 200m butterfly. The win earned her a gold medal at the FINA World Cup. She also beat her own preliminary swim time of 2:08.02 and set a Short Course Meter (SCM) 18 & under USA National Record, beating out Mary Mohler’s 2002 record time of 2:06.17. With such a record under her belt, Howley joins the likes of fellow SCM American junior record holders, Michael Phelps and Missy Franklin.

In another impressive event, Howley participated in the mixed 4x50 medley relay on Sunday, October 3 in Berlin with a co-ed team of Quintin McCarty, Zhier Fan and Kristina Paegle. McCarty led off in 24.81, Fan went 26.79, Howley was 26.26 and Paegle closed in 23.69, for an overall time of 1:41.55. That put them second place behind Germany’s 1:39.17, earning them a silver medal. However, their time took down the previous world junior record set by Team USA with a 1:41.91 at the 2017 Singapore World Cup, making Howley and her team the new world junior record holders for the mixed 4×50 medley relay.

As the competition continued on to Budapest, Howley continued to shine. Participating yet again in the 200m butterfly, Howley came in third place with a time of 2:06.67. However, at 16, Howley was the youngest in the competition. The first and second place winners, from Sweden and Hungary, were both 32 years old. As a junior, with her time in this race and her time for the 200m in Berlin, Howley has posted the two fastest 200m butterfly swims in the world this year by a teenager.

When Howley came home on October 10, she brought home gold, silver and bronze medals, a new world record, a new national record and a title as the fastest teenage 200m butterfly swimmer in the world. Howley’s LIAC teammate, Gormsen also had great success, bringing home two golds and two silvers, making that seven combined medals for LIAC’s swimmers at this year’s FINA World Cup.

Howley’s parents couldn’t join their daughter at this competition, as it is designed to give the swimmers a sense of independence, and they would have had to stay in separate hotels. However, they eagerly watched at home on Eurovision. “I had to give it up to God this time. I was just praying she would be safe, and the team would be safe. It was hard, but they did so good,” Howley’s mother, Mary McDermott said. “I’m very proud of her. I’m proud of her every day. She’s living her dream and we’re supporting her, doing whatever we can for her. That’s what parents do.”

When Howley came home on October 10, there was no firetruck-led parade this time, but rather a more subdued welcome. She did come home to her house being covered in red, white and blue Team USA balloons and a small get together with her family. However, by Monday, October 11, a day where most school kids have off, it was back to work for Howley as the junior had to catch up on schoolwork she missed. And back to the pool the next day. “She won’t take a day off,” McDermott said. Howley’s impressive talents in swimming comes at the cost of hard work and dedication. “She practices six days a week, eight times with five night practices and three mornings,” McDermott said.

McDermott says Howley is now looking forward. On Monday, October 18, it was announced that Howley is officially one of the 79 swimmers named to the 2021-22 U.S. National Junior Team.

Way to make Rockaway proud, Tess!

 By Katie McFadden

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