Morgan Ray Breaks SB6 World Record in the 200 Breast on Day 1 of US Para Nationals

2023 US Para Swimming National Championships

  • December 15-17, 2023
  • Rosen Aquatic & Fitness Center, Orlando, Florida
  • Long Course Meters (50 meters)
  • Results on Meet Mobile: “2023 National Championships SWI_P”
  • Day 1 AM Results | Day 1 PM Results

The 2023 US National Para-Swimming Championships kicked off Friday at the Rosen Aquatic & Fitness Center in Orlando, Florida, and two World Records went in the books on the first day of the meet.

In the morning session, 21-year-old Morgan Ray swam 2:59.49 in the SB6 200 meter breaststroke, which took almost half-a-second off the old record which has stood for more than seven years. Torben Schmidtke of Germany swam 2:59.93 at the IDM meet in Germany in 2016.

Paralympic Swimming Classifications range from S1 to S14. S1 to S10 are for athletes with physical disabilities, S11 to S13 are for athletes with visual impairments, and S14 is for athletes with intellectual disabilities.

Within each grouping, a lower classification number is generally considered to be a more sever impairment to an athlete’s performance. Athletes have one classification for butterfly, freestyle, and backstroke races (S#), one for breaststroke races (SB#), and one for IM races (SM#). These numbers can be the same but are not necessarily equal, depending on the nature of an athlete’s disability.

Some meets, like the Paralympics, have races separated by classification. In other meets, multi-class scoring is employed, where each swimmer is given a point value relative to the World Record in that event for their class, and the winner is the swimmer with the highest point value (aka closest, or surpassing, the World Record). This meet is being adjudicated via a multi-class system.

For Ray, that 7 second improvement vaults him up the World Rankings, though the 200 breaststroke is not a Paralympic event in any class, so he’ll be counting on a similar breakthrough in the 100 breaststroke later in the meet to grab another US spot at the Paralympic Games (and promote his own inclusion for that roster).

“I had the world record time in the back of my mind going into the race, but mainly just focused on putting together a solid first race at these national championships,” said Ray after his record. “It gives me a lot of confidence to know that my new training is working, and I’m so stoked for this upcoming year. This is a huge weekend to see where we’re all at as we make the final push to U.S. Paralympic Trials in June.”

Ray trains out of the Bolles School Sharks program in Jacksonville, Florida that produced swimmers like Olympic gold medalists Ryan Murphy, Joseph Schooling, and Caeleb Dressel.

That race was swum in the morning session as a timed final, as were other non-Paralympic events like the 400 IM.

Then in finals, Gia Pergolini swam 30.32 in the 50 backstroke, which slips her under the old World Record of 30.72 that was set in 2016 by Russian swimmer Anna Krivshina at the same IDM meet as the 200 breast record was.

That time incidentally also breaks Pergolini’s own personal best and previous American Record of 30.99.

The 19-year-old Pergolini is the defending Paralympic gold medalist in the 100 backstroke and won five medals at the 2022 World Championships, including gold in the 100 back and 100 free. She trains with the varsity squad at Florida International University in Miami.

One other major record fell when S10 swimmer Taylor Winnett posted a 31.53 in prelims of the 50 fly. That breaks the official Americas Record set in 2011 by Canadian Aurelie Rivard (31.75), though the US record is faster at 31.35 (Anna Eames from 2011). Eames’ swim was never ratified as the continental record, though.

Elizabeth Marks set an American Record in the prelims of the 100 fly in 1:31.16, breaking the old S6 record of 1:37.62 set in 2009 by Miranda Uhl by more than six seconds. Marks is a former U.S. Army medic and was injured while deployed in Iraq in 2010.

She scratched the final of the 100 fly, focusing instead on the 400 free where she had the highest points score in the evening session.

Besides national championships and records being on the line, the meet is also one of the last major opportunities for the US to stake its claim on spots for the Paralympic Games.

Unlike the Olympics, at the Paralympic Games, quota spots are assigned to nations, not individual athletes. Countries earn spots at the Games based on results at the World Para-Swimming Championships, based on World Rankings, and based on invitations from the Bipartite Commission. Once those slots are awarded to the countries, those countries use their own internal procedures to divide them up among the 141 swimming events approved for the 2024 Paralympics.

The 325 athlete slots (178 male and 147 female) given for World Rankings are the biggest pool of the 605 total slots available. The qualifying period ends on January 31, 2024, which ramps up the pressure for a (cooperative) climb up the World Rankings.

The US had 48 quote spots, which was the 5th-most in Tokyo, behind the Russian Paralympic Committee (68), Ukraine (57), China (56), and Great Britain (49).

Other Day 1 Highlights:

  • The women’s 400 free didn’t see any records, but had a star-studded field that included Elizabeth Marks in the S6 class (5:23.01), Mckenzie Coan (5:16.38) and Ahalya Lettenberger (5:23.69) in the S7 class, Jessica Long (5:16.11) in the S8 class, Summer Schmit (4:55.28) in the S9 class, and Olivia Chambers (4:33.19) in the S13 class. Coan’s swim is especially important, because its within two seconds of a time she went in April – even after health issues forced her to withdraw from the World Championships this summer. Lettenberger’s swim came on the same day she was announced as a recipient of a prestigious Marshall Scholarship to study at any British University. Chambers, meanwhile, improves her time from April as the #2 in the world in the S13 class in this event. Marks’ swim was the highest-scoring under the multi-class scoring system with 950 points, followed by Coan and Chambers.
  • In the men’s 400 free, Noah Jaffe posted the top time out of the S8 classification, touching in 4:29.94. That’s about two seconds away from Matthew Torres’ American Record set last year (he didn’t race at this meet), but is Jaffe’s 2023 best by six seconds and launches him to #2 in the world this year. He also swam 1:07.63 in the 100 fly in prelims followed by a 1:07.66 in finals – the fastest times in the field outside of the S14 intellectual disability classification.
  • Lawrence Sapp had the fastest overall time in the field with a 58.27 – that’s about a second shy of his 2023 best of 57.16 from April, which currently ranks him 6th in the world.
  • Summer Schmit, who trains at the University of Minnesota, also led the S9 class in the 100 fly with a 1:15.67 in finals – though she was faster in 1:14.61 in prelims.

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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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