2023 U.S. National Championships
- June 27 – July 1, 2023
- Indianapolis, IN
- Indiana University Natatorium
- LC (50m)
- Meet Central
- SwimSwam Preview Index
Women’s 400 IM – By The Numbers:
- World Record: Summer McIntosh (CAN) – 4:25.87 (2023)
- American Record: Katie Hoff (USA) – 4:31.12 (2008)
- U.S. Open Record: Summer McIntosh (CAN) – 4:28.61 (2022)
- 2022 U.S. International Team Trials Winner: Katie Grimes – 4:36.17
- World Aquatics ‘A’ Cut: 4:43.06
17-year-old Katie Grimes is the defending World Championship silver medalist in the 400 IM and is the favorite to win at the U.S. Trials. She has been on fire this season, blasting a lifetime best time of 4:31.81 at the Fran Crippen Swim Meet of Champions in April. This beat her 2022 World Championships time by nearly one second.
That swim put the Sandpipers of Nevada swimmer within .70 of the oldest women’s American record left on the board in any course, set by Katie Hoff back at the 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials.
Grimes, a 2021 Tokyo Olympian who placed fourth in the 800 free, just dropped her fastest 800 free since Tokyo in late May, so we know she’s on form. The distance specialist will have a busy event lineup at Trials, looking to place well in the 800 free and 1500 free, as well as the 400 IM.
Heading into Trials, the 400 IM is one of the most competitive fields on the women’s side right now. A rematch is brewing between Grimes, 2021 Olympic silver medalist Emma Weyant, 2021 Olympic bronze medalist Hali Flickinger, and 17-year-old phenom Leah Hayes. Last year, Flickinger placed third at Trials with a time that would have still made the final at Worlds.
Grimes and Weyant went 1-2 in this event last year, going on to win silver and bronze, respectively, in Budapest. Weyant is a strong choice to place second again. She notched a 4:39.32 season-best time in May and is coming off a productive collegiate season with Florida. She placed third in the 400 IM at the 2023 NCAA DI Championships after winning the event at SECs with a best time.
Flickinger is harder to predict because she hasn’t swum the 400 IM yet this season. But one thing’s for sure, she and Weyant will have a fast race. Some of Flickinger’s fastest 400 IMs have been with Weyant by her side. Her lifetime best is still a 4:33.96 she swam at the 2021 Olympic Trials to narrowly place second behind Weyant. Flickinger had similar success at Worlds, earning bronze within two seconds of Weyant.
There’s one name who could disrupt that trio, though, and that’s 17-year-old Leah Hayes. Hayes was named the 2022 SwimSwam World Championships Breakout Swimmer of the Year after breaking the 200 IM world junior record to win bronze. She has had a killer year, recently logging a lifetime-best 400 IM time of 4:39.58 at the Westmont Pro Swim Series in April.
Hayes’ sprint IM has been strong as well; she’s the third-fastest American in the 200 IM so far this season. She’s ranked fourth in the 400 IM this season, the same place she earned at the 2022 U.S. Trials behind Flickinger. But, Hayes is faster this season. She had never broken 4:40.00 by this time last year.
Except for Flickinger, all three swimmers have been under the World Aquatics ‘A’ cut of 4:43.06 this season. That makes their job simple: finish in the top two to earn the honors of going up against world record holder Summer McIntosh in Fukuoka.
More Young Blood Within Striking Distance
Kayla Han of La Mirada Armada is also under the World Aquatics ‘A’ cut, having swum a best time of 4:42.96 at the Mission Viejo Pro Swim Series last month.
The recently-turned 15-year-old won the ‘B’ final last year, but had she been in the ‘A’ heat, her time would have placed her fifth. Han’s butterfly is especially dangerous and she has enough endurance to keep up — and maybe even outlast — some of the more seasoned swimmers.
USC’s Justina Kozan has been relatively quiet this season, owning a season-best of 4:47.25 from May. But, she may have more in the tank come Trials.
Her best time stands at 4:40.57 from the 2021 U.S. Olympic Trials which would have earned her fourth place in last year’s Trials ‘A’ final.
Kozan is coming off a strong freshman season with USC. She placed fourth in the 400 IM and 200 IM at the 2023 Pac-12 Championships. Kozan was an ‘A’ finalist in this event last year, ultimately placing seventh.
Keep an eye out for Bella Sims of the Sandpipers of Nevada. She’s ranked eighth in the country this season after blasting a 4:43.82 at the SMOC in April. This isn’t a usual event for Sims, though. She did not race this event last year at Trials and she hasn’t raced it since April.
Last year, Sims focused on every freestyle event, 200 and up, and the 200 IM — ultimately qualifying for Worlds in the 200 free — but, if she chooses to swim the 400 IM in Indianapolis, she has a strong chance to make the ‘A’ final. This brings us to our next section:
Will They, Won’t They?
Defending 200 IM world champion Alex Walsh could make the 400 IM final very interesting if she wants to. She holds a best time of 4:42.14 from 2020 and has been consistent since then, clocking a 4:42.15 this season to crack the ‘A’ cut. It’s unlikely she’ll swim the 400 IM at Trials, though, as there are at least five swimmers with best times faster than hers. Last year, she chose to focus on her bread-and-butter event, the 200 IM, as well as the 100 breast.
Virginia’s Ella Nelson might be the most likely in this category to swim it. She owns a best time of 4:43.84 from last year’s Summer Nationals where she placed fifth. She scratched this event at last year’s Trials though, instead focusing on the 200 breast and 200 IM. She’ll be ranked much higher this time around though after dropping a season-best time of 4:45.16. Last year, she went in ranked 19th. She beat Weyant at the 2023 NCAA DI Championships to place second.
There’s also Ohio State’s Felicia Pasadyn who won the 400 IM at Big Tens and owns a best time of 4:42.79. She didn’t compete at Trials last year, and she hasn’t raced a 400 IM long course yet this season, so it seems unlikely that she’ll be in the mix. But, she placed third at 2022 Summer Nationals and would have a shot at the ‘A’ final.
The main reason that distance specialist Leah Smith might consider swimming the 400 IM at Trials is that she performed well in the 400 IM at the Short Course World championships in December. The 2016 Olympian placed fourth while clocking two best times across prelims and finals. She’s ranked seventh in the country this season in long course. But her event lineup last year at Worlds was the 200/400/800 free and she will most likely focus on those.
Distance star Katie Ledecky is the second-fastest American in the 400 IM so far this season. She blasted a 4:36.04, right on her best time of 4:35.77 from 2022 Summer Nationals, at the Fort Lauderdale Pro Swim Series.
Lindsay Looney is another 2022 Summer Nationals ‘A’ finalist who will most likely not race the 400 IM at Trials. Firstly, she’s steered clear of the 400 IM all of this collegiate season at ASU. She also has a much stronger shot at making the team in the 200 fly where she’s ranked seventh in the country so far this season. She chose to focus on that event last year and will likely do the same this year.
Best of the Rest
Mackenzie Looze, fresh out of her 5th year at Indiana University, was an ‘A’ finalist at last year’s Trials in this event. She ultimately placed fifth with a 4:44.95, a couple of seconds off her best time from 2019. If she’s able to get closer to her best time this year, she could have a shot at breaking the top five again.
This collegiate season was almost equal, but slightly slower than last season for Looze in the 400 IM. She placed 8th at the 2023 Big Ten Championships, two places lower than last year but within a second of her 2022 time. While she hasn’t swum the 400 IM in long course yet this season, her collegiate results project that she’s definitely still in striking range of the Trials ‘A’ final.
Avery Klamfoth of SwimMAC Carolina placed second in the ‘B’ final at last year’s Trials. She has since lowered her best time to a 4:45.72 which placed her third at the 2022 Junior Nationals. She would be a serious ‘A’ final contender if she can break 4:45.00, but so far her best time this season is a 4:49.57 from January.
Michaela Mattes of the Sarasota Sharks is also in the 4:45 territory, with a best time of 4:45.78 from last August. And the class of 2023 Florida commit she’s been relatively consistent since then, holding a season-best time of 4:46.98.
Tennessee’s Alexis Yager made it into the ‘A’ final last year in lane eight and then she maintained that rank. Her best time, a 4:45.18 from the 2021 Olympic Trials, would have earned her sixth place though. While she hasn’t matched that speed yet this season, she’s gotten as close as 4:49.97 from the Knoxville Pro Swim Series.
SwimSwam’s Top 8 Picks:
|Place||Swimmer||Season Best||Lifetime Best|
Dark Horse: Claire Weinstein – She’s currently the No. 1-ranked high school recruit of the class of 2025. Weinstein made the U.S. World Championships roster last year in the 200 free and went on to participate in their gold-medal-winning 800 free relay. She has a shot at qualifying in those races again, but she’s also becoming a strong ‘A’ final contender in the 400 IM. She posted a best time of 4:48.06 at the Fort Lauderdale Pro Swim Series and is now ranked 13th in the country this season. It would be difficult for her to drop more time so quickly, and she’ll already have the 200 free to focus on. But, the door is open for her to do something incredibly fast.