Erin Gemmell Swims 3rd-Fastest 13-Year-Old 200 Free In US History


Erin Gemmell, daughter of Bruce Gemmell, swam a 2:01.50 to qualify 3rd in prelims of the women’s 200 free at Speedo Junior Nationals. Gemmell, 13, is now the 3rd-fastest 13-year-old in US history. She swam a tight race, splitting 28.15 on the 1st 50, then following it up with splits of 31.32, 31.13, and 30.90 respectively.

She sits behind only Claire Tuggle, who swam a 1:59.11 earlier this year (and qualified 2nd this morning with a 2:01.44), and Sippy Woodhead, who went 2:01.08 at a USA-USSR dual meet in 1977.

In addition, that time now ranks Gemmell 15th in the all-time rankings for 13-14 girls, with a full year left in the age group. Tuggle swam a lifetime best 1:58.59 last week at Nationals, coming in 2nd all-time in the 13-14 age group, just behind Sippy Brennan’s NAG of 1:58.53. We’ll see if either can improve in tonight’s A final.

NEW ALL-Time Girls 13 200 Free (TOP 5)

  1. Claire Tuggle – 1:59.11
  2. Sippy Woodhead – 2:01.08
  3. Erin Gemmell – 2:01.50
  4. Carly Geehr – 2:02.22
  5. Chelsea Chenault – 2:02.60

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Joel Lin

Congrats, Sights set on the magical Sippy Woodhead standards next year.

25 free champ

You mean Sippy Brennan?

Joe Swimmer

Sippy Woodhead went 2:01.08 in the 200 free at the USA-USSR Dual Meet on Sept 3, 1977 in Leningrad Russia. She was 13 years old at the time. Shouldn’t that be the 2nd ranked time for 13 year olds?

This is correct. We updated the article. It took some non trivial googling to verify this. Out of curiosity, what was your source for this fact?

Joe Swimmer

I remember watching the meet on Wide World of Sports back in high school and then reading it in Swimming World the following month. To be sure I was correct I looked it up in the October ’77 issue of Swimming World magazine. It’s the issue with Joe Bottom on the cover

Thanks for looking it up! I found lots of fun facts trying to verify this time. Woodhead was only 5’4″, 109 lbs when she did that time. Also older articles tend to say “world’s record” instead of “world record.” I can’t find any timeline when or reason why “world record” took over.

Joel Lin

It was at the US vs East Germany dual meetthr week prior to that Leningrad US vs USSR meet where Joe Bottom eclipsed Mark Spitz’s vaunted 100 fly world record. That earned him the Swimming World cover shot. The best Sippy Woodhead trivia is she once held the 50 meter free world record…for 2 minutes. It was in the heats of a season meet at Austin. The following heat Sippy’s WR was broken by a Stanford swimmer named Kelly Asplund. The prelim heat after that the record was broken again by Jill Sterkel. Sterkel later lowered it again that same night in finals. That’s right – 3 different world record holders in the women’s 50 free in less than 5… Read more »

Andrew Mering

Part of the reason that was possible was the women’s 50 free world record wasn’t tracked until 1975. The incident you are referring to happened in 1980 while the record was young and without much pedigree. This likely made it a soft record. Still a great story. By contrast the women’s 100 free world record was first set in 1908.

When Sterkel lost that record, the swimmer that took it in 1983 was Dara Torres. The same Dara Torres that won a silver medal at the 2008 Olympics.

25 free champ

Great find by Joe.


Andrew Gemmell with the tweet of the week about this swim.


I think the tweet was about her hundred free but you’re right, it’s awesome


Oh, whoops. I guess I should read these articles.