Tyler Hong was awarded the Male High School Athlete of the Year award by the Greater Cleveland Sports Commission on Thursday, March 4. The senior swimmer has been a well-decorated student-athlete at Saint Ignatius High School, and this is an addition to an already phenomenal resume.
"I was speechless," says Hong. "It is crazy to think I was picked among these other talented athletes; I'm truly honored." Hong was named a finalist alongside Joe Labas of Brecksville-Broadview Heights and Kentrell Marks of Valley Forge, both for football.
The Greater Cleveland Sports Commission celebrated the student-athletes via zoom on March 4, and Hong was able to be with his parents when he heard the news. "This meant a lot to me," says Hong. "They are always by my side; this award is for them."
This was the 21st annual Greater Cleveland Sports Award; Hong joins Northeast Ohio athletes' esteemed list. Names such as; LeBron James (SVSM), Ted Ginn Jr. (Glenville), and Mitchell Trubisky (Mentor) have been recipients of the Male High School Athlete of the Year. Hong is the first student-athlete at Saint Ignatius to win this award.
"It is crazy to think about this list," says Hong. "Receiving the same award that these big names once did, I'm truly blessed."
Hong has been part of the foundation of building up the swimming and diving program during his four years as a Wildcat. For the first time in program history, the team won back-to-back District Championships in 2020 and 2021. "Being with these guys the last four years has been the most fun I've ever had," says Hong. "Going back-to-back is amazing, and I'm happy that we were able to do it."
Along with this feat, Hong and the Wildcats finished third at the State Meet in Canton. Hong also won a state championship in the 200-yard Individual Medley with a time of 1:46.54, a school record beating his record set in 2020.
"A huge relief came out of my chest," explains Hong. "I was thrilled and excited because my brother, parents, and teammates were there for me."
Without question, there are challenges for student-athletes with the presence of COVID-19 and the protocols that they have to follow. There was an added obstacle as well with a new coaching staff around Hong for his senior season. "I'll admit, it was a bit tough at first," says Hong. "I learned to accept these challenges, and everything came smoothly when I overcame them. My teammates and I came together as one and fought hard every meet."
Look in the swimming and diving program; you are bound to see Hong's name quite a bit. Along with breaking his 200-yard IM record, Hong was a part of the 200-yard Medley Relay in 2020, which saw a program record of 1:31.45. In the 2020-21 season, Hong broke his brother, Marcus, record in the 100-yard butterfly with a time of 48.99. Hong owns the record for the 100-yard freestyle with a time of 44.88 set in 2020. Hong also set the 100-yard backstroke record with a time of 47.89 back in the 2020 season. Hong as a Freshman in 2017, owns seven records of the possible 12 events for the freshman record board.
Although the season has come to an end, Hong is still striving to be the best swimmer he can be as he continues to practice almost every day. Hong will even compete in individual events until the summer. Hong currently is in the application process with Princeton University and is thrilled for the next level.
"I'm truly excited," explains Hong. "I can not wait to move to the collegiate level. This is going to be another great part of my life."
Hard work and dedication have paid off for Hong. However, this is just the beginning of a phenomenal swimming career. Congratulations to Hong for this astounding achievement.