Ilya Kharun Tops 2023 Rankings in 200 Fly; Claire Weinstein Switches Teams

Sandpipers Pumpkin Invitational 2021

  • October 22-24, 2021
  • Pavilion Center Pool, Las Vegas, Nevada
  • Short Course Yards (25 yards)
  • Timed Finals
  • Full Meet Results

Usually, meets with words like “Pumpkin” in their title are fairly tame: mid-to-late October train-through meets used to get some racing practice in and test some early season training.

But the Sandpipers of Nevada over the weekend hosted what might be the most consequential “pumpkin” invitational meets in USA Swimming history. Over three days at the Pavilion Center Pool, a new star, Ilya Kharun, was born, and one of the brightest age group talents in the country Claire Weinstein showed up with a new team affiliation.

And that’s on top of the almost-overlookable presence of a pair of U.S. Olympians.

Note that all times at the meet were swum at altiutde. While the average altitude of Las Vegas is just over 2,000 feet, the Pavilion Center Pool has an official altitude of 3,054 feet. This means that for meet entry and qualifying purposes, 200 yard swims get an adjustment a half-second faster, 500 yard races get a 2.5 second adjustment faster, 800 or 1000 yard individual races get 5 seconds faster, and 1650 yard races get 11 seconds faster.

Kharun’s Big Breakthrough

16-year old Ilya Kharun had a breakout meet like few we’ve ever seen in October. Even while racing at altitude, he swam unadjusted lifetime bests in 9 events. The only where he didn’t was the 400 IM. With a maximum of 9 events allowed per athlete, he actually could have had 10 personal bests, including the 1000 yard split en route to his mile.

Every single event was also a win for Kharun.

Pumpkin Invite – Raw Time Pumpkin Invite – Adjusted Time Previous PB (unadjusted)
Time drop (altitude adjusted)
200 free 1:40.06 1:39.56 1:41.72 2.16s
500 free 4:32.27 4:29.77 4:45.02 15.25s
1000 free 9:15.67 (Split) 9:09.37 (Split) 9:42.01 32.64s
1650 free 15:24.69 15:13.69 16:16.11 62.42s
200 back 1:50.20 1:49.70 1:57.58 7.88s
200 breast 2:06.74 2:06.24 2:16.81 10.57s
200 fly 1:45.94 1:45.44 1:49.62 4.18s
100 IM 50.7 50.7 1:00.04 9.34s
200 IM 1:52.00 1:51.50 1:55.73 4.23s
400 IM 4:04.39 4:01.89 3:59.05 N/A

The standout swim among a list of standout swims for Kharun was a 1:45.94 in the 200 fly. In June, when we ranked the high school class of 2023 (which Kharun is in), the fastest 200 fly time was from Mitchell Ledford at 1:46.32. Ledford was the #6 recruit in the class at that time, while Kharun was unranked.

While that one race isn’t enough to put Kharun in the top 10 immediately, his trajectory is headed toward being one of the true darkhorses in the class of 2023, which is already well into its recruiting cycle.

So how did he get here? According to Sandpipers coach Michael Kinross, a number of factors played into Kharun’s run of success.

Kharun started in the Sandpipers program as a “talented 10 & under,” starting at age 5. He’s a Southern California Swimming record holder in several 10 & under events. After spending a few seasons at another local team, he rejoined the Sandpipers in spring of 2019.

“It took him a little while to readjust to our training and he is a bit of a late bloomer size wise compared to some of the other boys at his age and level,” Kinross said.

“Then COVID hit and he remained in our Age Group/Pre-Senior level track, which by design focuses on the development of the growing athlete. Meaning he was still swimming all events, all strokes, all distances, at all meets, only wearing a tech suit a couple of times a year, and racing at meets not as fresh as many of his age group counterparts.

“Ilya moved into our National groups in January which allowed a little more freedom to focus on more of his primary events, especially in the lead up to Open Water Nationals and Olympic Trials.”

Kinross said that, along with continued physical growth, led to the breakout meet we saw this weekend in Las Vegas.

This is a follow-up to his first meet of the season, a dual against Boulder City Henderson earlier in September, where he swam a different set of events and set 4 personal bests: 20.74 in the 50 free, 50.16 in the 100 back, 57.08 in the 100 breast, and 47.96 in the 100 fly.

There seems to be, essentially, no race that Kharun can’t swim, which makes him a tantalizing collegiate prospect when he begins to specialize.

An Age Group Star Moves to Vegas

As if that wasn’t enough, the meet saw an appearance from 14-year old Claire Weinstein where the blue and gold of the Sandpipers.

Weinstein has previously trained with the Westchester Aquatic Club in New York, and went on a run earlier this year that included becoming the youngest Olympic Trials qualifier of 2021 at only 13, and knocking on the door of some of the most famous National Age Group Records there are.

Having left Westchester, a club regionally renowned for its age group development, now Weinstein is training at the club that put three swimmers with similar specialties to her in the 200+ freestyles on the U.S. Olympic Team.

Her swimming this weekend included times of 4:47.31 in the 500 free and 9:48.78 in the 1000 free. When adjusted (4:44.81/9:42.48), the 1000 free time would be a best time.

But following in Sandpipers’ philosophy, the meet also swam her swim backstroke, breaststroke, and butterfly sprint events. That included a new lifetime best of 57.98 in the 100 fly, knocking more than a second off her previous best time from March.

The Olympians

Even after Erica Sullivan moved on to the University of Texas, Sandpipers is still the training home to a pair of teenage Olympians: Bella Sims and Katie Grimes (undoubtedly a substantial part of the motivation for Weinstein to make the move).

Sims qualified for the U.S. Olympic Team as a member of the 800 free relay, which meant an Olympic silver medal in Tokyo.

While she didn’t swim the 200 free at this meet (she did in September in 1:47.89), Sims showed off some versatility by swimming best times in the longer freestyles (15:59.68, converted to 15:48.68 in the 1650 free) and breaststroke (1:05.19 in the 100 breast) races.

Grimes, meanwhile, finished 4th in the 800 free at the Olympic Games. She did swim the equivalent yards race, the 1000 free, and crushed best times at a Kharun-like rate.

Pumpkin Invite – Raw Time Pumpkin Invite – Adjusted Time Previous PB (unadjusted)
Time drop (altitude adjusted)
100 free 51.03 51.03 51.16 .13s
500 free 4:39.86 4:37.36 4:38.26 .90s
1000 free 9:30.58 9:24.28 9:39.77 15.49s
100 back 54.15 54.15 55.64 1.49s
100 breast 1:04.86 1:04.86 1:06.38 1.52s
200 breast 2:19.00 2:18.50 2:20.27 1.77s
100 IM 55.51 55.51 59.78 4.27s

While USA Swimming doesn’t award National Age Group Records nor National Age Group Rankings on the basis of altitude adjusted times, her adjusted time in the 1000 free is second all-time in the 15-16 age group behind only the indomitable Katie Ledecky. Even her unadjusted time, swum at 3000 feet of altitude, ranks her 6th all-time:

  1. Katie Ledecky, 9:14.22 – 2013
  2. Kate Ziegler, 9:25.51 – 2005
  3. Katie Hoff, 9:27.56 – 2006
  4. Erica Sullivan, 9:29.91 – 2016
  5. Jane Skillman, 9:30.35 – 1990
  6. Katie Grimes, 9:30.58 – 2021


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1 year ago

westchester seems to be a great foundation… and then success after…

1 year ago

I believe the Weinstein’s have 4 kids. Wonder if they moved the whole family for Claire to train. INSANE!

Reply to  NYer
1 year ago

Maybe the rest of the family was excited about the move. Good for them.

Reply to  Canuswim
1 year ago

Gambling on her future by moving to Vegas!!

Reply to  NYer
1 year ago

All their kids are swimming for the Sandpipers. Maybe they moved for all the kids to train? Plus, it’s beautiful in Las Vegas! No state income tax. Win win win

1 year ago

Damn Weinstein wants to make Paris for sure

1 year ago

This girl would whoop most men fr

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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