arena Swim of the Week: Kayla Han Hits 16:37 1500 Free, #3 Among 13-Year-Olds

Swim of the Week is brought to you by arena, a SwimSwam partner.

Disclaimer: Swim of the Week is not meant to be a conclusive selection of the best overall swim of the week, but rather one Featured Swim to be explored in deeper detail. The Swim of the Week is an opportunity to take a closer look at the context of one of the many fast swims this week, perhaps a swim that slipped through the cracks as others grabbed the headlines, or a race we didn’t get to examine as closely in the flood of weekly meets.

Kayla Han, who was the youngest qualifier for the U.S. Olympic Trials last year, has started 2022 off on a good note.

Competing at her home club La Mirada Armada’s “Road to 2022” meet Jan. 14-18, Han registered best times in four different long course events, highlighted by her effort in the 1500 freestyle.

Han, 13, clocked a time of 16:37.59 in the event, improving on her previous best set at December’s US Open (16:43.02) to improve her all-time ranking in the girls’ 13-14 age group.

Han’s previous PB already had her ranked third all-time among 13-year-olds, where she remains, but she does move up from 40th to 22nd among 13-14s.

The only swimmers faster than Han at 13 in the 1500 free are Sandpipers of Nevada swimmer Katie Grimes (16:32.88, 2019) and Phoenix Swim Club’s Kalyn Keller (16:35.74, 1998).

Grimes was notably the youngest swimmer to qualify for the U.S. Olympic team last summer, and finished fourth at the Tokyo Games in the women’s 800 freestyle.

Han, who won’t turn 14 until June, also established new best times in the 800 free (8:43.88), 200 fly (2:16.68) and 200 IM (2:17.98) at the meet.

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3 months ago

Just curious, does anyone have access to the World swimming rankings from 1977 to see if Cynthia Woodhead swam the long course mile at all, or even into early ’78 before turning 14 the beginning of Feb 1978? Can’t recall who won the mile at the 77 AAU nationals in Mission Viejo (maybe Alice Browne in a WR time?), or whether Sippy was entered in that event, especially since that meet served as qualifier for the dual meets that summer between GDR and then USSR, and I don’t think the girls swam the mile at those dual meets, thus Sippy may not have entered the race at nationals???

3 months ago

Han continues to remind me of an incredible comparison, one of those once every several generation younger swimmers that gives much older rivals a big run for their money: Sippy Woodhead, who just after finishing 6th grade, swam at ’76 Olympic trials, youngest entrant. I just located a Swimming World magazine from very early ’77, and in it, its announced she swam untapered, unshaved & no rest, just barely missing the then American record held by Shirley Babshoff. (pretty sure it was the 500 free and done at the SPA-PA qualifier for the dual meet between those two LSC’s.) Between Kayla, Summer McIntosh, and our insane middle distance/distance free depth stateside, I am SO looking forward to seeing what happens… Read more »

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Reply to  Parker
3 months ago

Reminds me of young Claire Tuggle who broke numerous NAG records over the course of her career! 1:44.9/4:41.3 as a 13 Y/O! Still a huge talent, going to UVA, and 2x member of JR team (world Junior champ too).

3 months ago

Hard to tell what her best events will be she seems to do everything pretty well

Reply to  Taa
3 months ago

agreed! could even prove in time to have a decent 100-200 free internationally!

About James Sutherland

James Sutherland

James swam five years at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, specializing in the 200 free, back and IM. He finished up his collegiate swimming career in 2018, graduating with a bachelor's degree in economics. In 2019 he completed his graduate degree in sports journalism. Prior to going to Laurentian, James swam …

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