2022 U.S. Trials Previews: Is Ledecky Set to Get Back Under 15:30 in the 1500?



  • World Record: Katie Ledecky (USA) – 15:20.48, 2018
  • American Record: Katie Ledecky (USA) – 15:20.48, 2018
  • US Open Record: Katie Ledecky (USA) – 15:20.48, 2018
  • 2019 World Champion: Simona Quadarella (ITA) – 15:40.89
  • 2020 Olympic Champion: Katie Ledecky (USA) – 15:37.34
  • FINA ‘A’ Standard: 16:29.57

The World, American, U.S. Open, and Olympic Record Holder: Katie Ledecky

Anyone who has been paying attention to swimming in the last 10 years knows Katie Ledecky is often in a field of her own in the women’s distance events. The 25-year-old hasn’t lost in a 1500 final at a major competition since at least 2012. However, Ledecky isn’t the reigning world champion in the event, but that’s not because she was defeated in 2019. At the 2019 World Championships, Ledecky came down with an illness and ended up pulling out of many of her events, including the 1500.

To give you an idea of just how dominant Ledecky is in the 1500, she’s not only the fastest swimmer in history by 18.4 seconds, she holds the 12 fastest performances in history. Here are the top 13 performances all-time in the women’s LCM 1500 free:

Rank Time Swimmer Date
1 15:20.48 Katie Ledecky (USA) 5/16/2018
2 15:25.48 Katie Ledecky (USA) 8/4/2015
3 15:27.71 Katie Ledecky (USA) 8/3/2015
4 15:28.36 Katie Ledecky (USA) 8/21/2014
5 15:29.51 Katie Ledecky (USA) 3/4/2020
6 15:31.82 Katie Ledecky (USA) 7/25/2017
7 15:34.23 Katie Ledecky (USA) 6/19/2014
8 15:35.35 Katie Ledecky (USA) 7/26/2021
9 15:35.65 Katie Ledecky (USA) 6/1/2017
10 15:35.98 Katie Ledecky (USA) 12/7/2019
11 15:36.53 Katie Ledecky (USA) 7/28/2013
12 15:37.34 Katie Ledecky (USA) 7/28/2021
13 15:38.88 Lotte Friis (DEN) 7/28/2013

Ledecky has swum well since her move to Florida to train under Anthony Nesty and alongside men’s freestyle stars like Bobby Finke and Kieran Smith. Having already swum a 15:39.45 in 2022, Ledecky is far and away the favorite to win this event at U.S. Trials, as well as the World Championships. However, it will be interesting to see if Ledecky is able to better her 2022 best at this meet. If she were to go under 15:30 at this meet, it would be her first time under the mark in a little over two years.

The Sandpipers of Nevada

It’s not often that a club team would get its own section in one of our previews, but the Sandpipers of Nevada are on a whole other level with this group right now. Leading the way is 16-year-old Katie Grimes, who notably qualified for the U.S. Olympic Team last summer in the 800 free. Grimes is the only swimmer other than Katie Ledecky who is entered under 16:00 at this meet. Grimes finished 3rd at the Olympic Trials last summer, coincidentally behind fellow Sandpiper Erica Sullivan, who of course would go on to win Silver in Tokyo. Grimes’ time of 15:52.12 makes her the # performer all-time in the 15-16 age group. She sits just 0.02 seconds behind Janet Evans’ #2 in the age group (15:52.10), meaning Grimes not only stands an excellent chance of qualifying for the Worlds team in this event, she could very well move up in the age group rankings as well.

Before we continue with the other Sandpipers girls in the 1500 at this meet, we should note that Olympic Silver medalist Erica Sullivan will not be competing at these Trials. Sullivan, who currently competes collegiately for Texas but is also a Sandpiper, is dealing with a shoulder injury, though we have few details on the nature of the injury or the timeline for her return. Sullivan raced the women’s 10k at Open Water Nationals earlier in the month, where she led the race for the first 3 laps, but ultimately did not end up finishing the race, presumably due to her shoulder injury. After clocking a 15:41 in the 1500 at the Olympics last summer, a healthy Erica Sullivan would likely be our #2 pick in this event at these Trials.

Next up is another Sandpipers Olympian, Bella Sims. Sims has a personal best of 16:21.22, which she swam in March of 2021. While her best LCM event is probably the 200 free, Sims is also a serious threat in distance races, having an 8:23.55 in the 800 as well as her 16:21 1500. Additionally, Sims swam a 15:48.70 SCY 1650 free in December of 2021, just 4 months ago. Notably, Sims is entered in 7 events at this meet, and with the 1500 so late in the meet, it’s a possibility she could end up scratching, although that’s far from a guarantee. Sims is used to busy meet schedules. She swam 6 individual events and 5 relays in the span of 4 days at the Speedo Winter Junior Championships – West this past December.

Paige Kuwata, a Louisville-bound 17-year-old out of Sandpipers, is the #5 seed at this meet, coming in with a 16:27.73. The LCM 1500 is Kuwata’s top event, and her personal best came at last summer’s Olympic Trials, earning her a 10th-place finish in prelims. The field at this meet isn’t quite as deep as the Olympic Trials last summer, allowing Kuwata plenty of room to move up in the ranks. Additionally, Kuwata swam personal bests in 8 SCY events this past fall, including the 1650, so she has a bit of momentum coming into this meet.

The last Sandpiper entered in this event is 15-year-old Claire Weinstein, who comes in as the #18 seed with her personal best of 16:45.42. While that’s not necessarily a head-turning time in a U.S. Trials meet such as this one, Weinstein is primed for a huge race. She swam a massive personal best at the Speedo Winter Junior Championships – West meet in December, taking 2nd with a 15:52.84. Weinstein will be something of a wildcard in this event, since she’s going to be racing in the early heats. It would take an incredible race from Weinstein for her to swim a time which would put her in contention to qualify for the Worlds team, however, she’s leading among the most likely qualifiers for the Junior Pan Pacs team and Mel Zajac team.

The Best of the Rest

Sierra Schmidt, a University of Michigan alum who now trains at Scottsdale Aquatic Club, is the #3 seed, coming in with a 16:06.85, a time which she swam at a Pro Swim Series last May.

With the field being considerably thinner at this meet than the Olympic Trials last summer, it appears as if this is shaping up to be a three-woman race in terms of World Championships qualification. One of those women is Katie Ledecky, so we can just pencil her in for one of the Worlds spots. So behind Ledecky, it looks as though the race for 2nd is probably going to shake out between Katie Grimes and Sierra Schmidt. The gap between Schmidt and #4 seed Bella Sims is 15 seconds.

Another junior swimmer in the field is Sarasota Sharks’ 17-year-old Michaela Mattes, who enters as the #6 seed. Mattes has a personal best of 16:29.86, which she swam in late February.

A pair of collegiate swimmers round out the top 8 seeds. Lola Mull, coming off a great season at Northwestern, is the #7 seed, coming in with a 16:31.41. Elise Bauer, a Florida swimmer, comes in at #8 with a 16:32.55.

SwimSwam’s Top 8 Picks:

Place Swimmer Seed Time Lifetime Best
1 Katie Ledecky 15:35.35 15:20.48
2 Katie Grimes 15:52.12 15:52.12
3 Sierra Schmidt 16:06.85 16:06.85
4 Claire Weinstein 16:45.42 16:45.42
5 Bella Sims 16:21.22 16:21.22
6 Paige Kuwata 16:27.73 16:27.73
7 Lola Mull 16:31.41 16:31.41
8 Elise Bauer 16:32.55 16:32.55

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2 months ago

Ledecky has done everything right since Tokyo. Couldn’t be more impressed. Not sure how she’ll swim here, as I do not know where she is in her training cycle. Looking forward to the world champs. If she takes on the full program, I see her winning the 400-800-1500, and will swim faster than she did in Tokyo. I don’t see her winning the 200, even with the absence of Titmus.

2 months ago

Honestly, if I was a distance swimmer in the USA right now (and wasn’t Katie Grimes or Katie Ledecky), I would switch into Open Water. Both swimmers are so dominate right now, and the fact that Grimes is already 15:52 at 15 shows that she’s gonna be most likely sub 15:40 by the time Paris comes around. Ledecky and Grimes are going to dominate American distance freestylers for the years to come.

2 months ago

Her speed is what will determine if she can beat titmus in the 200 and 400

Sherry Smit
Reply to  Sqimgod
2 months ago

Well um, Titmus isn’t gonna be a factor this year

Tik Tok
Reply to  Sherry Smit
2 months ago

Like other Australia top swimmers, Titmus is not going to world championship this year

Sherry Smit
2 months ago

Sierra Schmidt is one of the most inspirational swimmers out there. She is so kind and genuine. I met her in San Antonio and she’s always smiling. Hope she gets on the team in either the 400/800/1500 Free:)

Reply to  Sherry Smit
2 months ago

I believe she’s only swimming the 1500.

Lil Swimmy
2 months ago

when claire weinstein goes a 15:30 then you all will see ….

Sherry Smit
Reply to  Lil Swimmy
2 months ago


Reply to  Lil Swimmy
2 months ago


Mr Piano
2 months ago

That 15:20 is imo her best world record. Completely in a league of its own, even she hasn’t gone close to it since she set it.

2 months ago

Dont think KL will be under 15:30, I think she’ll do whatever’s needed to win by a good margin. O/U 15:35 IMO

2 months ago

What’s the point in holding a separate preview for the 800? It’s practically the same event with the same contenders, both worldwide and domestically.
Don’t see the point in racing both either, but that’s not up to SwimSwam haha

Reply to  Bud
2 months ago

As a former pretty high level distance swimmer who really loves watching distance swimming, I kind of agree. Obviously there is some difference but kind of always the same cast of characters. Also I think it overloads the top end people who are also elite in a 400 free or IM (or a 200). especially at meets with prelims for distance events. I say just do what D1 NCAAs does and only have the 1500 at big meets.

Reply to  Klorn8d
2 months ago

Because the World Championships aren’t a big meet?

Sherry Smit
Reply to  Bud
2 months ago

I’ve always found the 400 and the 1500 more similar than the 800 and the 1500 for some reason. The 400 is very simple to pace, hard 100, build 200, hard 100. The 1509 for me is firm 500, build 500, sprint 500. In the 800, ive never been able to master the pacing, and have always been more of a 400/1500 Freestyler for some weird reason. Pretty strange, but I think Erica Sullivan may be like that in a way too

Sherry Smit
Reply to  Sherry Smit
2 months ago

1500 whoops

Reply to  Bud
2 months ago

As a former D1 mid distance swimmer and Olympian I love they have both. The 800 was ok but the 1500 was too far for me. The medalists sans Katy were different from 800 to 1500. Lastly why should the sprinters be the only ones getting to swim multiple events. McKeon won both the 50 and 100. Titmus the 200 and 400. Don’t begrudge Katy the 800 and 1500.