Bella Sims Moves to No. 8 All-Time in 200 Free, Sandpipers Crush NAG Relay Record at Juniors West

bella sims
Bella Sims -- Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Bella Sims Moves to No. 8 All-Time in 200 Free, Sandpipers Crush NAG Relay Record at Juniors West

As the U.S. Winter Junior Nationals West got underway Thursday evening in Austin, Texas, the Sandpipers of Nevada produced one of the most outstanding relay performances by a club team in recent memory. The stars of the Las Vegas-based club are already established swimmers on the national and international scene — Bella Sims and Katie Grimes were members of the U.S. Olympic team in 2021 while Claire Weinstein joined that duo on the World Championships team this summer — and together, they swam the fastest 18-and-under 800 freestyle relay by 13 seconds while posting a mark that would have placed second at last year’s NCAA Championships.

Sims led off for the Sandpipers in 1:40.78, more than two seconds quicker than her previous lifetime-best mark and good enough to make her the eighth-fastest performer ever in the event. The list of swimmers to surpass that time include Missy FranklinMallory ComerfordKatie LedeckySimone ManuelTaylor RuckAllison Schmitt and Siobhan Haughey. Sims is now ranked second all-time among 17-18 girls behind Franklin, who swam a mark of 1:40.31 in 2014. At the World Championships last June, Sims anchored the U.S. women’s 800-meter free relay team to gold in 1:54.60, and her run of success has continued into a brilliant fall.

Grimes, who won silver medals at the World Championships in the 1500-meter free and 400 IM, split 1:43.26 on the second leg. Macky Hodges went 1:44.60 on the third leg before Weinstein, who led off the U.S. women’s gold-medal relay in Budapest, handled anchor duties in 1:44.02. The final time was 6:52.66, which obliterated the 15-18 girls’ National Age Group record and Junior Nationals meet record of 7:02.90 established by the Sandpipers’ Grimes, Weinstein, Paige Kuwata and Sims last year.

That final time would have been good enough to finish second at the NCAA Championships last year behind only a Stanford team that featured four Olympic medalists. The Sandpipers’ time was eight tenths faster than national runnerup Virginia, a team led by Alex Walsh that finished in 6:53.47 and third-place Cal (6:53.52). And that’s with a team of high school swimmers with only two seniors (Sims and Hodges).

In the battle for places behind the star-studded team from Nevada, Mission Viejo finished second in 7:15.74 with Teagan O’DellTeia SalvinoAva Withey and Sydney Willson. O’Dell led off that relay in a blistering time of 1:44.60. Crow Canyons finished third in 7:17.15 with Ellie ButlerRaya MellottSadie Suppiger and Bailey Hartman, who anchored in 1:44.37.


Notify of

Welcome to our community. We invite you to join our discussion. Our community guidelines are simple: be respectful and constructive, keep on topic, and support your fellow commenters. Commenting signifies that you agree to our Terms of Use

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x