U.S. Open Qualifier Shaelyn Shields Announces Verbal Commitment to Columbia (2025)

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Shaelyn Shields, a USA Swimming Scholastic All-American, has announced her verbal commitment to the application process* at Columbia University for the fall of 2025.

The SwimMAC Carolina member is a junior at Providence Senior High School in Charlotte, N.C., nearly 650 miles from Columbia’s campus in New York City.

I am excited and honored to announce my commitment to the admissions process at Columbia University! I cannot wait to continue my academic and athletic career with such an amazing team. Thank you Coach Diana and Coach Demerae for giving me this incredible opportunity. I would also like to thank my family, coaches, and friends for their endless support! Go Lions!

Hard work paid off for Shields in 2022-2023.

She started the year as a five-event Futures qualifier (100/200 back, 200/400 IM, 100 breast) and concluded it with two U.S. Open cuts (200 back, 400 IM) and two for Summer Junior Nationals (100 back, 200 IM).

Along the way, Shields added to her list of Futures events with new qualifying times in the 200 breast, 100/200 free, and 100 fly.

Last February at the North Carolina High School 4A State Championship, Shields was the top-scoring girl for Providence Senior High School, taking 7th place in the 200 IM (2:03.13) and 11th in the 100 back (56.39). The sophomore’s 100 back was within two-tenths of her PB at the time, and her IM was almost a second faster than her previous best.

At the same meet, Shields also reset her best time in the 100 free (53.22) leading off Providence’s 400 free relay in the prelims, with the team going on to finish 10th in the final (3:33.67).

Many of Shields’ best times came from her performances a few weeks later at the North Carolina Short Course Senior Championships, where she placed 3rd in 400 IM (4:22.19), 4th in 100 back (55.09) and 200 back (1:58.84), 4th in 200 IM (2:04.47), and 7th in 100 breast (1:04.55).

She was even faster in prelims for the 400 IM (4:20.09) and 200 back (1:58.70). Her 400 IM prelims swim was a drop of nearly six and a half seconds. In the 200 back prelims, Shields improved by almost two seconds to break the two-minute mark for the first time ever … but not the last time that day.

Then, in March, the 15-year-old secured her first U.S. Open qualifying time during prelims on day one of the Speedo Sectionals in Indianapolis (LCM). Her 200 back (2:16.89) finals-qualifying time marked an improvement of more than two and a half seconds, and she went on to place 6th (2:18.22) overall.

Shields wrapped up her successful long-course season at the Summer Junior National Championships, qualifying for finals – and earning her second U.S. Open cut – in the 400 IM (4:54.98). She followed up the second-and-a-half drop in prelims to finish 20th overall in a time of 4:55.41, more than a second faster than her previous best time (4:56.48) set just a few months earlier.

Also at Summer Juniors, Shields’ lead-off leg of MAC’s 400 medley relay was a PB for her 100 back (1:04.24).

Top Times

  • 100 back – 55.09 SCY / 1:04.24 LCM
  • 200 back – 1:58.33 SCY / 2:16.89 LCM
  • 200 IM – 2:03.13 SCY / 2:20.32 LCM
  • 400 IM – 4:20.09 SCY / 4:54.98 LCM
  • 100 breast – 1:04.55 SCY / 1:16.39 LCM
  • 100 fly – 57.62 SCY / 1:03.35 LCM
  • 100 free – 53.22 SCY / 59.20 LCM
  • 200 free – 1:54.42 SCY / 2:07.36 LCM

The Columbia University Lions compete in the Ivy League and are led by Diana Caskey, now in her 33rd season as head coach. At the 2023 Ivy League Championships, the Lions took 5th place.

With another year and a half to continue improving, already Shields has best times in five events that would have scored points at last season’s championships.

Her current best time in the 200 back would have qualified for the ‘A’ final, an event in which only Aziza Ganihanova raced in the ‘A’ final for the Lions in 2023 and took 4th overall in a time of 1:56.20. She was a junior at the time and therefore will no longer be on the roster by the time Shields’ recruiting class arrives in NYC, but they will overlap with Grace Zhou.

Zhou won the 200 back ‘B’ final in 2023 as a freshman, stopping the clock at 1:57.87, which was nearly two seconds faster than her prelims swim.

Shields’ best times in the 400 IM and 100 back would have qualified for the ‘B’ final at the 2023 Ivy League Championships, and her 200 IM and 100 breast times would have scored from the ‘C’ final.

Joining Shields in the Lions’ class of 2029 is Alex Moore, an IM and backstroke specialist from Greenwich, Conn., who trains with the Chelsea Piers Aquatic Club.

*Note: A verbal commitment between an Ivy League coach and a prospective student-athlete is not an offer of admission, as only the Admission Office has that authority. The coach can only commit their support in the admission process. Ivy League Admission Offices do not issue “Likely Letters” before October 1 of the prospective student-athlete’s senior year of high school. The Likely Letter, while issued after an initial read of the student’s application, is not an offer of admission to the university.

If you have a commitment to report, please send an email with a photo (landscape, or horizontal, looks best) and a quote to [email protected].

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19 days ago

Huge Congratz Shaelyn! Keep up the great work