Ross Dant

Former Newton-Conover High School swimmer Ross Dant won a national championship and set a pair of state records during the recent USA Swimming National Championships at Stanford University in California.

Ross Dant continues to rule the pool.

The 2019 Discovery High School graduate who swam for Newton-Conover High School recently competed in the USA Swimming National Championships at Stanford University in California. Representing North Carolina State University’s Wolfpack Elite and the Hickory Foundation YMCA Seahorse Swim Team (YSST), the rising freshman at N.C. State won the national championship for 18-and-under males in the 800-meter freestyle while setting two new North Carolina records in the 15-18 year-old male category (400 and 800 freestyles).

“It was my first meet with Wolfpack Elite, which is the club program at N.C. State,” said Dant, who has been swimming for the YSST since he was 7 years old. “I’ve been to a couple national championships, but this was the first time I was really in contention to make the ‘A’ final, swimming with the top eight and having my name really out there.

“The venue was great, the school was beautiful, the area was beautiful,” he added. “Overall, I’d say it was a very good experience.”

A year ago, Dant was chosen by USA Swimming to represent Team USA at the 2018 Junior Pan Pacific Championships in Fiji. While there, the multi-time high school state champion won two gold medals and a bronze.

The head coach of the YSST since 1996, Jon Jolley has been present for many of Dant’s accomplishments. But it’s not just Dant’s ability in the pool that impresses his coach.

“He’s a fabulous kid. He’s not just a fast swimmer, he’s a person of high moral caliber,” said Jolley. “A lot of people that are really good have egos, but Ross has what I call the ‘it’ factor. You can’t coach it, you can’t teach it, either they have it or they don’t.”

Jolley shared a story of how last spring at the YMCA national championships, Ross won national titles in three of the four events in which he swam. However, in the event that he lost, he waited until everyone had finished and then went over to give the person who defeated him a congratulatory hug.

“You’re Ross Dant, you just got beat, and the first thing you do is touch the wall and look up at the clock, wait for everybody to touch,” said Jolley. “Then he goes into the other lane and gives the kid a hug that beat him, which I think said a lot about him.”

According to Jolley, Dant’s final three collegiate choices were N.C. State, the University of Virginia and Arizona State University. The latter is coached by Bob Bowman, the longtime coach of Olympic legend Michael Phelps.

In the end, Dant chose to join the Wolfpack for the 2019-20 season.

“I knew I really liked the coaches, really liked the team culture, really liked the atmosphere there,” said Dant, who will major in engineering at N.C. State. “Training there for five weeks showed me what I’m in for in the fall and how the training’s gonna be different and improve everything — my swimming, my stroke, my personality and just who I am as a person.”

Dant’s ultimate goal is to qualify for the 2024 Olympics in Paris.

“That would be really awesome to do,” said Dant. “That’s the aspiration, that’s the goal, that’s the dream. I’ve got a couple years to get there, to try to work hard to meet those goals.”



Date: Wednesday, Sept. 18

Time: 4-7 p.m.

Location: Hickory Foundation YMCA

Purpose: To provide demonstrations, an introduction to the sport and general information about the team. The Hickory Foundation YMCA Seahorse Swim Team is a year-round program with six different practice groups to try to maximize the individual potential of each athlete, from novices all the way up to national champions.

Contact: Email Jon Jolley at

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Josh McKinney is the sports editor for the Hickory Daily Record. 

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