HICKORY, N.C. - Ross Dant is one of the fastest distance swimmers in the country for his age group.

Dant still trains at the pool where his passion for swimming started, the Hickory Foundation YMCA.

“We started off playing soccer at the Y when I was young,” Dant said. Then I started swimming too. I just started taking swim lessons.”

Dant’s parents eventually made him choose between the two sports. Now one of the top recruits in the country for the class of 2019, it’s clear he made the right choice.

“Ross is unique,” Dant’s coach Jon Jolley said. “Ross has what I call the ‘it’ factor. You can’t coach it. You can’t teach it. They either have it, or they don’t have it.”

“It” allowed Dant to take home three first place finishes in the YMCA Short Course National Championships last month. In his best event, the mile, he set a national record. Breaking the 15 minute mark, he also turned in the fourth fastest time ever for a 16-year old.

“It paints a target on my back, which is one of the things that I have to think about,” Dant said. “I have to keep training. I can’t just say, ‘oh haha, I’m fast.’ I have to keep working to make sure no one beats me.”

Not satisfied by his recent accomplishments, Dant has his sights set much higher.

“I have the Olympic rings put up under my bed, so I can look up and see them every night,” Dant said. “That is the goal. I think about that pretty much every day. To say, one day I’m going to be there.”

“That is a lofty goal, but that’s what he does,” Jolley said. “He sets lofty goals.”

Just making it to the Olympics might not be enough.

“Until I’m the world record holder, I’m not going to be ‘oh haha I’m the best. I’m fast’,” Dant said. “I mean, I guess it’s cool, but there are a lot of other people that are faster than me out there.”

Probably not for long.