Sure, Daniel Worth has some big goals. Winning an NCAA championship. Making the Olympic team.
They’re lofty, but they’re certainly realistic. And certainly a ways down the road for the Lee’s Summit North swimmer.
“I’m definitely not going to sell myself short and those are definitely goals,” Worth said. “I’ve just got to go for one goal at a time.”
Worth has had some recent success setting and achieving goals, especially when it comes to setting state meet records. He now holds three of them, and it’s a big reason why for the second straight year that Worth is The Examiner’s Boys Swimmer/Diver of the Year.
Worth, a junior, won three of his four gold medals in last month’s Class 2 state meet in record fashion. He won the 200-yard individual medley in a Class 2-best 1 minute, 49.39 seconds, breaking the record he set in winning the race last year. He helped North to an all-class 1:24.56 mark in the 200 freestyle relay.
But his biggest accomplishment came in the 100 breaststroke, in which he broke a 28 year-old record with a time of 53.53 seconds. That’s also the ninth-best mark ever achieved by a U.S. high school swimmer.
None of this came as a surprise to Worth, who also swam on the Broncos’ state-champion 200 medley relay. He was just attaining goals, after all.
“Me and my coach (Thomas Faulkenberry) came up with a plan to get the goals I wanted,” Worth said. “We pretty much hit everything I wanted to hit this season. Not just me but the team overall.”
Faulkenberry, in his first year as North’s head coach after serving as an assistant, already knew that Worth had plenty of natural ability. But what really makes Worth stand out, he said, is his focus on getting what he wants.
“Daniel has a very intense, goal-oriented drive when it comes to swimming,” Faulkenberry said. “His desire to achieve the ambitious goals he sets allows him to attack each practice with this cutthroat intensity unlike anything I’ve coached before.”
The 100 breaststroke record may not have been unexpected, but it was still a thrill for Worth. He said it was exciting to have Jeff Commings, who set the record swimming for St. Louis University High back in 1991, on hand at the St. Peters Rec-Plex to watch him shatter his 28-year-old mark.
“During the race I felt like I was going to have it or it was going to be really close,” Worth said. “I was like, ‘Wow, I don’t think I’ve made any mistakes.’
“And then as soon as I touched and the entire crowd erupted and it got crazy loud, that’s kind of when I knew.”
Faulkenberry said it was another example of how goal-driven Worth can be.
“I remember handing him his state champion medal at the podium his sophomore year after narrowly missing the record and him telling me right then and there, ‘I’m destroying that record next year,’” Faulkenberry said. “And sure enough, for a full year that remained his main motivating factor.”
The 200 IM would seem a no-doubter since he was defending champion in that race. But Worth said that was the hardest of his four golds to win.
“It’s a longer race and I hadn’t swam it as much as I did the last couple of seasons,” Worth said. “I guess I didn’t have as much confidence in the race, but after the first day I felt pretty good about it, and in finals I executed well and went pretty fast.”
Even though he’s now a four-time state champ – and a four-time Suburban Big Six champ as well – Worth still has his sights set on some other short-term goals. He’d like to get a gold at junior nationals, where he took fifth in the 100-meter breaststroke two weeks ago in Seattle. Setting a national high school record is on his list, too.
And before he heads for the University of Virginia, the school he announced his commitment to last month, Worth plans on winning more gold and having more fun with the Broncos next fall.
“Next year’s going to be pretty fun,” Worth said. “Even with the members that are graduating we’re still going to be one of the best teams in the state. Everyone’s really buying in this season and in the offseason a lot of the guys are really going to put in the work, I think. Next year we’re going to be even better than we were this season.”