Here is a suggestion: Merit badges for USA Swimmers!
I'm serious! if a kid swims a 400-IM in a meet and does not get disqualified, he should get a merit badge that looks like a "Badass" badge of accomplishment - I suspect this would encourage kids to swim different events and allow kids to create their own swimming goals rather than be pushed where needed. Perhaps it would keep kids from burning out after swimming the same event year-after-year. Remember, this is about the kids.
Above is a San Jose Sharks hockey logo from many years ago that I tweaked for a fast, illustrative, example of a swimming merit badge or patch.