Sean Green Returns from First Olympic Trials

 Sean Green Returns from First Olympic Trials

By Katie McFadden

There must be something in the water in Rockaway. It’s only some of the best young swimmers in the country. Two Rockaway locals just returned home from participating in the 2024 U.S. Olympic Team Trials in Indianapolis and making it to the finals in their best events. For 19-year-old Tess Howley, it was her second shot at trying to make the Olympic team. But Rockaway also saw a new swim-capped face on NBC this time around—Sean Green.

Sean Green, 17, began swimming at 9 years old, starting out with St. Francis de Sales CYO, where he also attended elementary school. He also joined Long Island Aquatic Club, recognized as one of the most elite competitive swim programs in the nation, the same club that Tess Howley has been swimming with. Going into his senior year at Archbishop Molloy High School, he’s been competing at the high school level and already earned the attention of colleges. Earlier this year, Green already committed to attend and swim for the University of Georgia on a full-ride scholarship in 2025.

And he’s already reached some impressive goals in his swimming career. At a meet last year, at age 16, Green surpassed 28-gold-medal-Olympian Michael Phelps’ time at this age in the 400-meter individual medley, by two seconds. He’s broken a few school records for the 200-meter freestyle and set a state record for the 500-meter freestyle. He also serves on the USA National Junior Team for LIAC, and took gold in the 2022 Speedo Junior National Championships in Irvine, CA. His time at that event qualified him for the 2024 Olympics trials, for a chance to earn a spot on Team USA heading to Paris this summer.

On June 13, Green and his family left Rockaway for Indianapolis, to participate in his first Olympic trials at Lucas Oil Stadium, where 20,689 attendees got to see some of the best swimmers in the country give it their all from June 15 through June 23, for a chance to compete at the Olympics. He joined Howley, who now attends the University of Virginia, as she competed in the 100M butterfly, the 100M backstroke, the 200M butterfly and the 200M backstroke. Howley had an impressive showing at trials, making it to the finals for the 200M butterfly and finishing seventh overall. As it was her second time at the Olympic trials, Green says Howley offered him a bit of advice—“try to take it in. It’s not as stressful as you think it’s gonna be.”

For his time at the trials, Green qualified to swim the 400M freestyle, the 800M freestyle, the 1500M freestyle, the 200M backstroke and the 400M IM. Since he was swimming so much, the 200 backstroke got scratched. But distance freestyle is Green’s specialty and he proved it throughout the week. In his first event, the 400M freestyle on June 15, he made a time of 3:50:55, beating his own personal time by 2.5 seconds, and placing him 11th overall. In the 400M  IM on June 16, he came in 11th overall with a time of 4:17.84. June 17 was a massive day for Green as he cut his personal 800M time by 10 whole seconds at 7:56.47, coming in first in his heat and qualifying him for the finals in the 800M.

On June 18, Rockaway was cheering Sean on from home at watch parties, while in Lucas Oil Stadium, Green’s proud parents, Keith and Katie, his sister, grandparents, uncles, aunt and cousins were cheering him on from the packed stands. Excitement built as Sean Green of Rockaway Beach, NY was announced, and his full-body photo appeared on the 40-foot screen, before the event began.

Green knew the competition would be fierce and nerves were running high. “It was nerve wracking. It was cool but at the same time, a little stressful to think you’re going to be racing one of the best guys in the world,” he said. That swimmer was 24-year-old Bobby Finke, who already has two gold medals under his belt from the 2020 Summer Olympics. At 17-years-old, Sean Green was the youngest swimmer in the 800M finals.

Despite the pressure of competing with a gold-medal Olympian, Green says Finke offered him some words of encouragement before the race—“Relax, swim your race, and take it in. You’re gonna remember this for the rest of your life.”

Green finished in eighth place, missing his chance to head to Paris this summer for the 2024 Olympics, but most importantly, Green is proud of how he did at trials. “I was extremely happy with my results. I feel like I did better than I was going to. The work that I put in over the past year really showed while I was competing there. Prelims were some of my best times to date,” he said. As Green and every competitive swimmer knows, timing is everything, and beating personal times is one of Green’s favorite aspects of the sport. “One thing I love about swimming, is you know when you’re doing good or bad. I like being able to accomplish my goals and see the results of it,” he said.

And he’s only getting started. Qualifying for the Olympic trials may open an opportunity for Green to compete in the 2024 Junior Pan Pacific Championships in Australia this August. As we go to press, he’s still waiting to hear if he qualified. And he plans on qualifying for trials in 2028, for a chance to head to the Summer Olympics in Los Angeles at age 21.

Green credits his LIAC coaches, Dave and Ginny, for helping him get to this level, combined with the constant practicing, six days a week, for sometimes four hours a day.

Making it to such a high level as a competitive athlete would make any parent proud, and Keith and Katie Green are beaming with pride over Sean’s results. “Just him making it to trials was an accomplishment and we were extremely proud of him, but to watch him in action and the way he held his composure and competed, it was just amazing. It was incredible to see him compete at that level. The time and dedication that kids put into sports, you don’t always get to see them come this far, but he was there, and he did a great job,” Keith Green, Sean’s father and a former LIAC coach said.

Having the support from the community also helps. That support will continue for both Tess Howley and Sean Green on Thursday, June 27 as the community lines up on Beach 142nd and Newport Avenue at 6:15 p.m. for a car parade to welcome our Olympic hopefuls home and cheer on their accomplishments. All are welcome to make signs, wear red, white and blue and join in. “We are so thankful for the support of our friends, family and especially Rockaway,” Katie Green said.

And Sean Green has a bit of advice for others pursuing their dreams. He says, “Always stay humble because it pays off in the end. If you push yourself out of your comfort zone, you really are able to grow.”

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