Evan Van Brocklin, 11, started swimming by the age of 3, and by the time he was 6 he was swimming competitively and breaking records. His mother, Sheri Holmen, said they knew pretty early on that Evan had some natural ability, but had no idea he would be so driven to try and be the best he could be at the sport.
“I think as soon as he made it on a competitive team we were pretty aware that he had some natural talents,” Holmen said. “The first time he ever swam the 50-meter fly, he broke the team record, and the team he was on in Vegas was a very good team with a lot of good swimmers.”
Holmen said that in Evan’s first competitive race he had no idea the length he had to swim was double what he was used to.
“I think what was funny about that race was that he had been swimming with a rec. league over the summer, and they had only done 25 yards, and so he went out in that race thinking it was 25, and he didn’t pace himself so he came back and was really, really tired and looked at me like, ‘Why did you make me do that,’” Holmen said.
Originally from Las Vegas, Nev., Evan and his family moved to the Cottonwood Heights area when he was 7 years old which posed some new challenges that forced him to become an even better swimmer.
“He had to start competing in the 10-and-under category, and that was a bit of a challenge, but I think it pushed him because he’s very competitive and likes to win,” Holmen said. “It was a lot of older, bigger kids he was competing with.”
Holmen said they soon learned Utah was a little different in that they don’t keep records for swimmers in Evan’s age group like they do in Nevada. So, to keep Evan motivated, they got creative and found some interesting records for him to try and achieve.
“We found all of Michael Phelps’ old [8 and under] records, and we kind of just did it for fun initially because USA swimming also doesn’t recognize 8 and under swimming times,” Holmen said. “There are no motivational time standards for that age group. So, we just set his goals at that time to beat Michael Phelps’ times, and we never in a million years thought that he would actually break them. We thought we were setting some pretty high goals for him to try and achieve, and the kid has surprised us.”
Evan currently holds the state record in the 100-meter butterfly, the 400-meter freestyle and the 500-yard freestyle.
Holmen said that with how young Evan is, his body is changing, and it can sometimes change which stroke he does best with year to year.
“With kids that young, they try to not specialize in any one race because as they grow, they can get better or worse at a particular one,” she said. “For instance, right now I don’t think his backstroke would be considered one of his better ones, but it maybe was when he was 8, and his freestyle used to be pretty bad, and now it’s pretty good. His butterfly is what has been consistent with him, but it just kind of depends on the week.”
What sets Evan apart from other 11-year-olds, according to Holmen, is his work ethic which is unusually strong for someone so young.
“He just has in him a drive,” she said. “He has already made the connection between hard work and success, and it’s really shocking to me that someone that young has put that together. The harder you work, the more likely you are to succeed.”
Evan is not done working hard either. His ultimate goal is to someday swim in the Olympics just like Michael Phelps.
“We have these little Olympic tattoos, and he puts them on before every big meet, and that’s his good luck charm that reminds him of the long-term goal,” his mom said. “If anyone can do it, it’s him.”