Sierra Schmidt, one of the best junior distance swimmers in the world, was out incredibly hard in the 800 free, shooting out to a lead of 2.69 seconds at the 200 mark over Canada’s Brittany MacLean. Schmidt continued to push ahead, distancing herself from the pack, although Chile’s Kristel Köbrich, the defending champion in this race, made a move at around the 500 mark. She split three 31 highs while Schmidt stayed at 32 lows, but the NBAC 17-year-old Schmidt closed strong and came to the wall at 8:27.54 for the win and a new Pan Ams record. Köbrich finished in 2nd (8:29.79), while Venezuela’s Andreina Pinto won bronze (8:31.08).
Schmidt, who recently grabbed a personal best of 8:28.91 in June at the Arena Pro Swim Series at Santa Clara, took down a record from 1999 that belonged to American great Kaitlyn Sandeno. Sandeno’s 16-year-old record sat at 8:34.65, and the top four finishers in this race actually got under that. Canada’s Brittany MacLean was 4th in 8:32.06, significantly under the old record herself.
A look at Schmidt’s splits, by 200:
2:02.91/2:08.06/2:09.06/2:07.51 = 8:27.54
It’s clear that Schmidt took this race out with plenty of tenacity, though she was still able to come home nicely. Regardless of her race strategy, Schmidt now possesses the 12th-best time in the world this year, which is the 5th fastest time by an American.
That was Schmidt’s only swim of the meet, but she has proven herself to be a top distance force this year and has paved the way for future success with a great time and some valuable experience.