Bella Sims and Ilya Kharun: Pioneering the Next Generation of Collegiate Sandpipers Talent


The Sandpipers of Nevada are undoubtedly one of the most dominant clubs in swimming. Ron Aitken has proved himself to be one the best coaches in the sport while simultaneously producing top NCAA and Olympic-level talent. In the past, the Sandpipers have produced great NCAA swimmers, Cody Miller, Bowe Becker, and Erica Sullivan, to name a few. However, this year, two college freshmen, Bella Sims and Ilya Kharun, will look to lead the way for the next generation of Sandpipers.

Bella Sims

The top-ranked recruit in the 2023 class is in her first season as a Florida Gator after a summer where Sims added to her collection of international medals. Sims looks to add more depth and improve a Florida Gator squad that placed ninth at NCAAs last season. While Florida has found its way to numerous top-10 team finishes in the past decade, the Gators have struggled to crown individual champions. The last woman to secure an individual NCAA title for the Gators was Elizabeth Beisel back in 2013. For Florida, however, it looks promising that the drought will end with Sims, as her times from 2022 would have been good enough to win four events at the 2023 NCAA championships.

200 Yard Free
Bella Sims: 1:40.78
2023 NCAA’s Winning time, Taylor Ruck: 1:42.36

500 Yard Free
Bella Sims: 4:28.64
2023 NCAA’s Winning time, Kensey McMahon: 4:36.62

1650 Yard Free
Bella Sims: 15:40.68
2023 NCAA’s Winning time, Kensey McMahon, 15:43.84

400 IM
Bella Sims: 3:56.59
2023 NCAA’s Winning time, Alex Walsh, 3:57.24

While Sims will only be able to swim three individual events at NCAAs, she will undoubtedly improve an already impressive group of Florida women who will return six of nine individual point scorers from a year ago.

Ilya Kharun


Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Kharun is entering his first collegiate season and joins a loaded Arizona State squad led Hall of Fame coach Bob Bowman. Kharun flew relatively under the radar until his junior year of high school, when he broke out at the 2021 Winter Juniors. But since then, Kharun has become one the most dominant recruits of the 2023 class. Before arriving to campus this fall, he showed off his versatility with his long-course swimming with a fourth-place finish at the 2023 World Championships in the 200 fly.

Kharun’s arrival to ASU was eagerly anticipated, and he wasted no time in revealing his potential for a team that finished second at last year’s NCAA championships. Despite being just 37 days into the fall semester, Kharun achieved an impressive feat. He broke Arizona State’s team record in the 100 fly, rattling off a 44.88 in his first collegiate meet versus Georgia. In addition, Kharun split a 19.51 50 fly split and put down a 1:40.68 200 fly. Kharun exceeding expectations is nothing but good news for the Sun Devils. Kharun now poses a potential title threat in the 100 and 200 fly, and a Leon Marchand, Hubert Kós, Kharun trio will be tough to stop.  

The Future

While Kharun and Sims lead the way in 2023, even more Sandpipers will soon start their collegiate swimming careers. Here’s a look at other Sandpipers college freshmen and future Sandpipers commitments to Division 1 schools.


Class of 2023

  • Mackenzie Hodges: USC
  • Chloe Mudadu: Missouri
  • Amanda Schweichler: University of Pacific

Class of 2024

  • Katie Grimes: Undecided
  • Lucy Warnick: BYU
  • Sianna Savarda: South Carolina
  • Jordan Evans: AirForce

Class of 2025

  •   Claire Weinstein: Cal 


Class of 2023:

  • Riley Clinton: Hawaii
  • Tanner Beck: Cleveland State

 Class of 2024:

  • Dillon Wright: Virginia
  • Santiago Gutierrez: Princeton

Class of 2025 

  • Luke Ellis: Indiana
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