5 Fast Facts About Abbey Weitzeil’s 100 Free American Record

Abbey Weitzeil

Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

FEDERAL WAY – Abbey Weitzeil has transformed from being a sprinter to watch into the fastest American swimmer in history, all in a span of about six months. When she broke the American record in the 100-yard freestyle Saturday night, she put herself into the history books in a big way and made the southern California native’s future in the pool a bit brighter.

Weitzeil’s 46.29 was significant in many ways when viewed in a historical perspective. Here are five facts about last night’s swim:

1. Abbey Weitzeil was the first to set an American record at the USA Swimming Junior Nationals.

We’re used to seeing national age group records fall by the truckloads at juniors, but no one imagines that they’ll see an American record fall. Weitzeil waited until the final women’s event to stun not only the crowd at the Weyerhauser King County Aquatic Center, but the entire swimming community.

2. She’s the third swimmer to set the 100-yard free American record on a relay leadoff.


Photo Courtesy: Anefo / Antonisse, Marcel

Tracy Caulkins was the first to do it at the 1979 nationals with a 49.03. Natalie Coughlin did it twice at the NCAA championships, first in 2002 and again in 2003.

3. She’s the 17th teenager to own the record.

Chris von Saltza

Photo Courtesy: Nationaal Archief, Den Haag, Rijksfotoarchief

While the American record had been held by college-age swimmers since Tammy Thomas’ 48.40 in 1983, the record belonged solely to high school swimmers in the 25 years before that. With the exception of a 48.61 by Jill Sterkel in 1982 to break the record she set as a high schooler in 1980, young swimmers have owned this sprint event. Chris von Saltza set the record first as a 14-year-old in 1958 with a 56.60, and broke it twice more in 1960 and 1961. Since then, such legendary names as Eadie Wetzel, Sippy Woodhead, Caulkins and Sterkel have owned the record.

Jenny Thompson was 18 years old when she swam a 47.61 at the NCAA championships as a Stanford freshman. Until Simone Manuel’s 46.83 last March, the record had belonged to ladies in their 20s.

She’s the fourth female and fifth person to simultaneously own an American record and national high school record in the same event.

Katie Ledecky and Kate Ziegler

Photo Courtesy: Peter H.Bick

Jeff Kostoff famously set the American record and national high school record in the 500 freestyle in 1983 with a 4:16.39. Since then, Kate Ziegler and Katie Ledecky have broken the 500 free American record and national record in the same race, with Ziegler doing it in 2006 andLedecky accomplishing it last February. Janet Evans did not break the American record when she set the national high school record in the 500 free in 1988, but when she finally got that American record in 1990 she still had the national high school record.

Weitzeil would have beaten the men’s 100 free American record of 46.50 swum by Steve Jackman in 1963

Ken Walsh took the record to a new level in 1967 with a 45.60. Who will be the first woman to go that fast?

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Bill Bell
7 years ago

Oh I think come Masters Nats next spring Natalie should be in the 46 low/45! high range when she competes in the 100-104 age group!

Old John
7 years ago

You’re forgetting Mark Spitz, who simultaneously set national high school and American records in the 200 IM and 100 fly in ’67, and in the 200 free in ’68.

7 years ago
Reply to  Old John

What about Andy Coan????

7 years ago
Reply to  Bill V.

…and Sippy Woodhead…


7 years ago

This was a wonderful article; intriguing; great pictures; And before I could respond about Spitz, Old John beat me to it.

Meredith Blake
7 years ago

Simone Emanuel broke the record for thr second time back in April in Clearwater as the lead off leg, making Weitzeil the fourth to do so.

Dave Joensen
7 years ago

Jill Sterkel graduated from high school in 1979, and would have been a college freshman when she set the American record in 1980. She did set an AR in the 100 free while in high school in 1977.

7 years ago

It would be standard journalistic practice to identify the persons in the photos.