HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- Henrico's Townley Haas showed the world that he belonged on a team with the best swimmers in history Tuesday night when he helped Team USA win gold in the Men’s 4x200M freestyle relay at the Rio Olympic games.
Townley swam a staggering 1:44.14, the fastest split among all the competitors including 21-time Olympic gold medalist and teammate Michael Phelps.
In fact, his time would have won him the gold medal in the individual event Monday night. Haas placed fifth in the event with a time of 145.58.
Townley swam the second leg of the relay, giving the U.S. a lead they would not surrender for the remainder of the race. The team finished with a time of 7:00.66.
The winning team included Townley, and veterans Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte and Conor Dwyer. Townley’ Texas Longhorn teammates, Jack Conger and Clark Smith, who both participated in the prelims, will also receive a gold medal.
This was the United States fourth straight gold medal in the 4x200-meter relay dating back to the 2004 Athens Olympics.
The Benedictine graduate is a product of the NOVA of Virginia Aquatics swimming team in the West End.
NOVA is routinely rated as one of the best swimming organizations in the country and now has an Olympic gold medalist to boast as one of their own.
Less than 24 hours after seeing one of their own win Olympic gold, the 19-year-old’s former teammates and coaches say they are very proud of Townley.
"From the youngest child up through the parents, it's such a tribute to Townley, its’ such a tribute to NOVA and it really is incredible for the community," said NOVA president Turner Broughton.
NOVA teammate and friend, Abby Jones, says she got emotional while watching her close friend make history in Rio.
"I definitely did cry, because these past few years in high school we trained in the same lane, we became really close, one of my best friends,” said Jones. “Seeing him accomplish such a dream of any swimmer is amazing."
After Townley’s record setting performance you would think those who knew him best would have seen this coming, but that’s not entirely the case.
His coaches, teammates and even his mom all agree he wasn't worthy of being on the best relay teams in his early teens.
"He kept working hard. Obviously, Townley has God-given talent and something clicked when he was 15 years old and all of a sudden Townley went from being a kid who was a very good swimmer, to breaking Michael Phelps' age group records," said Broughton.
He said Townley’s case is a prime example to every swimmer that comes behind him.
“He's just continued to grow and train harder and harder every day, pushing him-self and becoming focused on what he does in and out of the water. Especially this past year. I think Texas really changed him a lot and made him into an amazing swimmer," said Jones.
Townley is expected to come back to Richmond for a few days before heading back to the University of Texas for his sophomore year. The folks at NOVA say they are planning a big celebration for when he returns home.