While most swimmers his age were figuring out high school swimming at the junior varsity level, Crescenta Valley High freshman Young Tae Seo was putting a successful varsity team on his shoulders and draping CIF and Masters Meet medals around his neck.
But then again, Seo didn't arrive at CV as an average youth swimmer.
His reputation as a top-level club swimming standout preceded him and, after playing a central role in his team's Pacific League title and runner-up finish in CIF Southern Section Division II in his first year on the scene, additional notoriety figures to follow him for some time to come.
"He's definitely one of the most talented freshmen that we've had and to have that much of an impact at such a young age is very amazing," Falcons Coach Jan Sakonju says. "To do as well as he did at CIF, again as a ninth-grader, really shows his potential as a competitive high school swimmer."
With his mastery of the 200-yard individual medley, in which he won CIF and Masters titles, not to mention another Masters crown and league titles captured in two other strokes, Seo's achievements were unmatched by his area peers, resulting in his unanimous selection as 2010 All-Area Boys' Swimmer of the Year, as voted on by the sportswriters and editors of the Glendale News-Press, La Cañada Valley Sun and Burbank Leader.
"It feels great, especially to get it my first year," Seo says. "I want to say thank you to everyone and thank you to my parents for supporting me."
Crescenta Valley returned many of the veteran swimmers who helped it finish seventh in Division II the previous year, and with Seo capable of racking up points in big clusters, the team jumped up five spots in this year's final on May 16 at Belmont Plaza pool in Long Beach.
Seo won the 200 IM in 1 minute 50.14 seconds, placed second in the 500 freestyle in 4:27.38 and swam both the 200-medley and 400-freestyle relays, which came in second and fifth, respectively.
"I think that extra drive of being a major contributor to helping a team do so well at CIF definitely is motivating for him," Sakonju says. "That's one of the benefits of high school swimming is that you do have a team aspect when it comes to championships and dual-meet competition where every member has to perform.
"I think he really enjoyed that. He enjoyed motivating his teammates and working with them and I think that really does push a lot of swimmers to feed off that excitement."
Seo duplicated his success in the 200 IM three days later at the CIF Masters Meet at Belmont Plaza, where he won the title in 1:50.71. For good measure, he also captured the 500 freestyle title in 4:32.91.
"He's definitely driven to be at the elite level," Sakonju says. "We would finish a meet and he would be itching to be able to get going to a two or three-hour [club swimming] practice even after a competition.
"A lot of the confidence he has comes from his hard work. He's driven to put in the work necessary to be at the level he's at."
Seo also played a big part in the Falcons capturing their 18th straight league title, winning individual titles at the league finals on May 6 in the 200 freestyle (1:41.94) and the 500 freestyle (4:32.17), as well as swimming on the winning 400-freestyle relay.
Seo hardly seemed satisfied with virtually any of his big wins this season, happy to win titles, but always chasing a lower time as his ultimate goal.
Whether or not he ever hits that number in his head, the mere pursuit of it figures to lead to more records and more titles along the way.
"Top Olympic and college swimmers always kind of have that same mental attitude, that they can always do a little bit better and they're always looking for something to improve," Sakonju said. "Realistically, I think they can carry that on as both an athlete and as an adult, that he's always looking to do a better job and it will keep him from getting complacent.
"Sometimes you get a talented [athlete] who's so good that they figure they don't have to try anymore. He's not that at all."