Bella Sims Obliterates 17-18 National Age Group Record in 400 Yard IM at Sectionals


  • December 16-19, 2022
  • La Mirada Splash Center, La Mirada, California
  • Short Course Yards (25 yards) pool, prelims/finals
  • Results on Meet Mobile: “2022  December  CA NV Speedo Sect @ RMDA  v1”

Bella Sims won two individual races, including a new National Age Group Record, and led a Sandpipers sweep of the girls’ races on day 2 of the 2022 California/Nevada Sectionals in Southern California.

Sims, coming off an eight-win performance at the Winter Junior Championships – West meet last week, picked up where she left off in Austin.

Sims won two events on Saturday that she didn’t swim at Winter Juniors. First she won the 100 fly in 51.52, beating out teammates Katie Grimes (52.63) and Macky Hodges (53.84).

That swim for Sims makes her the 21st-fastest swimmer in 17-18 age group history. Incidentally, that would have won the Winter Juniors – West meet.

The same is true of her 3:56.59 in the 400 IM from Saturday, which is faster than Grimes’ 3:57.02 to win Winter Juniors West. That swim by Sims crushes the 17-18 National Age Group Record held by Ella Eastin from 2016 (3:58.40). Grimes, who is 16, previously had the best time by an American junior in the event.

Splits Comparison:

Bella Sims Ella Eastin Katie Grimes Ella Eastin
New 17-18 NAG Record Former 17-18 NAG Record 15-16 NAG Record
All-Time Fastest 400 IM
Fly 53.03 54.84 53.59 54.8
Back 59.33 60.11 58.62 58.75
Breast 70.31 68.19 71.14 66.57
Free 53.92 55.26 53.67 54.48
Total Time 3:56.59 3:58.40 3:57.02 3:54.60

That time by Sims also makes her the 4th-best performer, and is the 4th-best performance, in the history of the event:

Top 5 Performers All-Time, All Ages, Women’s 400 SCY IM

  1. Ella Eastin, Stanford, 2018 NCAA Championships – 3:54.60
  2. Katie Ledecky, Stanford, 2018 Pac-12 Championships – 3:56.53
  3. Katinka Hosszu, USC, 2012 NCAA Championships – 3:56.54
  4. Bella Sims, Sandpipers of Nevada, 2022 CA/NV Sectionals – 3:56.59
  5. Katie Grimes, Sandpipers of Nevada, 2022 Winter Juniors – West – 3:57.02

Sims, an Olympic silver medalist and World Champion on American 800 free relays, has shown off an incredible run of versatility in the last 10 days-or-so that is perhaps unlike anything we’ve seen at the age group level aside from maybe Michael Andrew.

Her individual wins and “best times” across two big meets now include the 200 free, 500 free, 1000 free, 100 back, 200 back, 100 fly, 200 fly, 200 IM, and 400 IM.

While Sims’ record-setting 400 IM was the talk of the session on Saturday, the Sandpipers also flexed their depth thanks to individual wins from two lesser-known members of that girls’ squad.

16-year old Applejean Gwinn, who swam a leg of the team’s winning 800 free relay on Friday, grabbed a win in the 200 free in 1:48.69. That crushes her previous best time of 1:52.23 from November 2021, which was foreshadowed by his 1:50.56 relay split a night earlier.

In the next girls’ race, another 16-year-old Lucy Warnick won the 100 breaststroke in 1:02.82, just out-touching Stephanie Iannaccone (1:02.84). Warnick’s swim is faster than her previous best time that was set at last week’s Winter Juniors – West meet. She finished 38th at that meet in 1:03.11.

Iannaccone, a Harvard commit for fall 2023, also swam a best time for 2nd place. So too did Aquazot’s 3rd-place finisher Sofia Szymanowski, who finished in 1:03.59. She is only 14-years-old.

The Sandpipers finished the day with a win in the 400 medley relay in 3:41.46, with their second relay finishing 2nd in 3:42.35.

The winning relay was Katie Grimes (53.53), Warnick (1:03.37), Gwinn (55.19), and Claire Weinstein (49.37) combined for a 3:41.46. That breaks the Southern California Swimming LSC Record of 3:46.38 which was set by Canyons Aquatics in 2015.

Note: the Southern California Swimming LSC includes the southern half of Nevada and the Sandpipers of Nevada.

The B relay included a 51.56 fly leg from Sims.

The boys’ side of the pool was not lacking for exciting results either. Alexander Cole of Alpha Aquatics won the boys’ 200 free in 1:36.85, crushing his own Team Record of 1:37.55 from November. Cole, a senior, is committed to swim at Purdue next season, and that time would rank him 2nd on the Boilermakers’ roster this season, behind only Nick Sherman’s mid-season 1:33.

The winner of the B Final in that race was Luka Mijatovic. The 13-year-old finished in 1:39.78. That already ranks him 27th all-time in the age group, even in the younger half, and makes him the fastest 13-year-old in US history. That honor previously belonged to Thomas Heilman, who at 15 put on a show at last week’s Winter Junior – East Championships.

Mijatovic, a rising age group star with the Pleasanton Seahawks, also swam 3:56.84 in the 400 IM. That ranks him even higher in the age group, 19th all-time among 13-14s, and just .04 seconds behind what Michael Phelps swam at that age.

It’s also .02 seconds better than Josh Zuchowski’s all-time best in the 400 IM at age 13.

Mijatovic’s previous personal best was a 3:58.12 that was set less than three weeks ago. The biggest improvements came on the opening butterfly leg (53.77 vs. 54.60) and the closing freestyle leg (53.26 vs. 54.49).

Other Day 2 (Saturday) Winners:

  • Alekos Binder, a 16-year-old from the Burbank Los Angeles Swim Team, won the boys’ 100 breaststroke in 55.66 beating out 23-year-old Ben Cable (55.78).
  • 24-year old Mission Viejo post-grad Jarod Hatch won the boys’ 100 fly in 46.35. That’s a new lifetime best for the former Cal Golden Bear who hasn’t officially raced since the Speedo Summer Championships in August 2021. Hatch is a part of the small new-look pro group at Mission Viejo under new coach Jeff Julian. That group also includes Julian’s son Trenton, who was Hatch’s teammate at Cal.
  • Mission Viejo got another win from 20-year-old Nick Williams. He was the only swimmer who beat Mijatovic in the boys’ 400 IM, finishing in 3:56.75 (.09 seconds ahead of the 13-year-old phenom). Williams was raised in Mission Viejo and spent his freshman year at Arizona State last season, but is back home training in Mission Viejo this winter. He represents Ecuador internationally.
  • Evolution Racing Club won the boys’ 400 medley relay in 3:20.36 with a team of Daniel Verdolaga (50.35), Nathan Wu (56.02), David Schmitt (48.61), and Keller Morgan (45.38). Morgan actually swam the breaststroke leg of the team’s 6th-place 3:16.09 at Winter Juniors – West last weekend, showing off his versatility with a 55.78.

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tea rex
1 year ago

I love this strategy of back-to-back meets where these hyper-versatile kids can log best times in 10-12 different events!

Shocker Veteran
1 year ago

Seliskar is the best male recruit, Sims is the best female. I rest my case.

1 year ago

When is the sandpipers first LCM meet? Im most excited to see a couple of in seasons 1:56’s 200 frees from Bella and Erin

1 year ago

Looks like Luka Mijatovic (13 y/o boy) out of Pleasanton just went under the 13-14 boys 500 free NAG of 4:24.79 this evening with a 4:24.72. Stellar swim!

Reply to  NCSwimFan
1 year ago

Is he American?

1 year ago

That’s it. She’s the best female recruit we’ve ever seen

Steve Nolan
Reply to  Swimfan27
1 year ago

Ya I can’t get a handle on the “best” recruit thing.

Best as in overall wild versatility, might be. But other folks brought up how important just being a lights-out 50/100 sprinter can be in terms of like, added points at NCAAs.

Either way tho, she’s still at least in the conversation.

(Though seeing her get so close to Eastin’s 4 IM record now…like, Eastin was named swimmer of the meet the year she set that, so. Idk what that says about it. I’ve just confused myself more.)

Reply to  Steve Nolan
1 year ago

TLDR: Sims is worth more than Curzan to UVA at 2022 NCAAs, Curzan is worth more than Sims to Stanford at 2022 NCAAs, each team has a different idea of what “best recruit” means to them

It’s hard to have a definite “best” recruit since it really is team dependent. Sprinters definitely are more valuable all things being equal though- take Curzan for example, who is commonly referred to as the best recruit or at least in contention for the title. Using her best times, if she participated at 2022 NCAAs, she could’ve earned Stanford +6 points in the 200 free relay (she would need to split a 21.65 to do that) and anywhere from 0 to 14 points in… Read more »

Last edited 1 year ago by jeff
Old Bruin
Reply to  jeff
1 year ago

Dang, Jeff looking for a SwimSwam side gig!

1 year ago

Crazy thing is if she and/or Grimes can find a couple seconds on the breast leg alone they’re both right on the scy AR.

Joel Lin
1 year ago

The women’s 400 IM at Olympic Trials in 2024 will be the wildest wild event. So many super talented players already in the field & some we might see venture into the event. Alex Walsh adds 4 IM? Maybe Gemmell goes with the 4 IM on day 1? Leah Smith goes 4 IM in lieu of 4 free? It’s clearly one of the most exciting events to look forward to. So many great great great ones, Sims & Grimes obviously included right there at the top.

Reply to  Joel Lin
1 year ago

Is the 400 IM on day 1 again at trials? With the Olympics changing the swimming schedule you think trials would be the same order

Last edited 1 year ago by Swimfan
Reply to  Swimfan
1 year ago

Trials will probably follow what they will do at the Olympics, but I have not seen what that order of events will be yet.

Scott Bonney
1 year ago

Sim’s 400 IM time would have won NCAAs last year.

Reply to  Scott Bonney
1 year ago

Sims would’ve won the 400 IM and 200/500 free and placed 2nd in the 200 back between this meet and jr nats while Grimes would’ve won the 1650 free and placed second in the 500 free/400 IM behind Sims

Boxall's Railing
Reply to  jeff
1 year ago

With the way programs like Sandpipers train nowadays, anyone think that the peak performance age for female swimmers ever becomes even younger? (eg 17-19 instead of 20-22)

Reply to  Boxall's Railing
1 year ago

Only if they go to college programs where they won’t/don’t do the appropriate amount of work.

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder/co-owner of He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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