National swim event set for April billed as 'fastest meet' ever at York YMCA

John Nelson

A national YMCA swimming event is headed back to York.

York will be one of five host sites for the newly-dubbed 2021 YMCA National Swimming Festival from April 8-11.

It's been decades since York last hosted a YMCA national championships.

“I worked together with a group of five other coaches and what we did was set up five locations,” said York YMCA swim coach John Nelson. “We’ll have about 250 kids at each of the five locations, so it’ll be back to pretty much where it was when it was a 1,000-person meet.”

The festival at the Graham Aquatic Center will have the look and feel of a normal national championships, with the best YMCA teams throughout the country competing. The results from each location will be tallied, with the top eight times earning medals.

The Graham Aqatic Center at the York YMCA will play host to a major swimming event in April.

While the nearly 1,200 competitors, spanning different ages at the youth level, will not compete directly against each other, the regional pod format will bring the best YMCA youth swimmers together virtually for the first big meet in more than a year.

Last year’s national championships were canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“They’ll merge all the results together like it’s one big meet,” Nelson said. “And it’s going to be some really fast swimming, especially here in York. I’m sure you’ll see some of the fastest times from anywhere in the country.”

Not officially recognized: While the meet will provide YMCA teams their first true national competition since early 2020, the festival isn’t officially being recognized by the national YMCA.

The YMCA of the USA released a statement indicating the festival is “not sponsored, organized, or conducted by the YMCA of the USA.”

Nevertheless, those competing are excited and have been working toward something like this for quite some time.

“It’ll be great competition for all of the YMCA swimming athletes across the country to kind of showcase their talent as well as all of the hard work that they’ve done over the past year,” Nelson said. “There really hasn’t been an attempt at this at the national level in over a year.”

One of Nelson's top swimmers, Riley Trout, can't wait for the event to happen.

"I'm super excited for the upcoming meet," she said. "We've been training for this all season and I think it’s going to be a great opportunity for the team to show off our hard work.

"It’s also exciting because this is the first majorly competitive meet we have had in a very long time. Coach John has done a great job of creating a safe environment so that we are able to host these competitions. I think this meet in particular is going to be really fast and competitive and I can’t wait to see how we perform as a team."

Getting to compete vs. teams from outside of Pennsylvania: Nelson is excited to get a chance to see how his powerhouse team will perform against competition from outside of Pennsylvania.

The handful of events held since the COVID-19 pandemic began last March have featured just teams and competitors from around the state.

“We have teams coming from Virginia and Massachusetts, some from Maryland and New Jersey and New York,” Nelson said. “So we’ll have teams from all over the region and it’ll be fast swimming.”

York should be strong in relays: Nelson pointed to York’s relays on both the boys' and girls’ side as teams he is eager to see compete on a bigger stage.

The girls’ 200 freestyle and 400 medley relays, as well as the boys’ 200 free and 800 free relays are all ranked among the top 10 in the nation.

“We will go up against some of the other teams that are ranked way up there with us,” Nelson said. “I think I can safely say that this will be the fastest meet that we’ve ever had at the York YMCA.”

Reach Ryan Vandersloot at