Sample Sets: A Look At the Work Of Rising Global Star Ilya Kharun Of Sandpipers Of Nevada


Sample Sets: A Look At the Work Of Rising Global Star Ilya Kharun Of Sandpipers Of Nevada

Arizona State recruit Ilya Kharun finished his 2022 long course season in impressive fashion. To wit: after a strong World Cup meet in November, he felt ready to challenge the world junior butterfly records. Representing Canada (he is a citizen by birth) at the FINA World Short Course Championships, he left Melbourne with three Canadian, two world junior records and a pair of medals: bronze in the mixed 200 medley relay and silver in the 100 butterfly.

Kharun claimed his first WJR (and Canadian national record) in the 50 fly, ultimately clocking a 22.28 and shaving 2-hundredths off Andrei Minakov’s 2020 mark. In his 100 fly, he was eighth at the first three walls, but roared home in the final 25 meters to go 49.03 and capture silver just behind Chad le Clos and a half-second faster than China’s Li Zuhaho’s 2017 standard.

A lifelong swimmer, Kharun, except for a very brief period in 2019, has been a member of the Sandpipers of Nevada since he was 5. A resident of Las Vegas, he moved there with his parents, members of Cirque de Soleil, ultimately forsaking gymnastics for swimming.

As he has progressed through the Sandpiper training groups, Kharun has been exposed to a number of mentors and has come into his own. A member of the club’s national team, the just-turned 18-year-old is “probably competing for the title of the hardest worker on the team. His baseline work level is higher than most,” says Coach Jake Des Roches. “He is smart, takes feedback and is willing to make changes. He is a big benefit to our boys’ group and brings them along in a positive way.”


Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Kharun has benefited from Coach Ron Aitken’s penchant for volume and love of open water training. In April 2021, he won USA Swimming’s National Junior 5K championship. In 2022, he grabbed the 7.5K crown. “Ilya likes to race and enjoys the challenge of open water,” says Des Roches. “His success in open water along with his sprint butterfly in the pool gives a sense of how he can do in the short course free events. He has great freestyle range. He thinks he has a 19 in him, and I know he can go under 15 minutes in the 1650.”

The Sun Devil-to-be is amazingly versatile as evidenced by his 11 long course summer national qualifying times and consistent 900 and even 1,000 power point ratings. The mega yardage approach has allowed Kharun to exhibit remarkable improvement in his primary strokes, especially the 200 yard butterfly, where he went from 1:57.99 in 2020 to 1:42.39 in 2021 to break Luca Urlando’s 15-16 NAG record (since restored, given Kharun’s Canadian citizenship).


Following are samples of Ilya Kharun training over the last several years:

October 2022 AM (SCY) – Age 17
National 1 (Coach Ron Aitken)
• 400 warm-up
• 12x {75 @ 1:30 + 25 @ :30
75: 50 drill + 25 swim
25: sprint
Done 3 rounds each stroke, reverse IM order
• Progressive IM: 4 rounds
1 x 25 fly @ :30
1 x 50 fly/back @ :50
1 x 75 fly/back/breast @ 1:10
1 x 100 IM @ 1:30
1 x 200 free negative-split @ 3:00
• 6 x 50 @ :50 – variable sprint choice
• 6 x 75 free for time from a dive @ roughly 3:00
Ilya descended from 33-mid to 32-low
• 6 x 25 free for time from a dive @ roughly 1:30
1-5 to a flip, Ilya averaged 9.2. Prior to #6, Ilya was told to throw down an 8, with Coach Des Roches saying he had never seen an 8-second 25 free in person before, and it would be cool if Ilya did it! He got very close before challenging #6 to a hand touch, touching in at 9.00.
• 18 x 100 @ 1:25 IM Pull – odds moderate, evens fast
• 600 cool-down


• While certainly not the most impressive or challenging workout on paper, Ilya’s performances on this day were some of the most impressive I’ve seen, and are a great demonstration of his work ethic when it comes to pushing himself.
• Ilya was holding low-1:50s for his 200s negative-split at the beginning part of practice. Descended his dive 75s from 33 to 32-low and was still able to pump out 9-low 25s free to the feet.

October 2021 PM (SCY) – Age 16
National Elite (Coach Ron Aitken)
• 1,000 warm-up mix free & IM drill
• 16 x 50 @ :50 variable sprint choice
• Prime pace: 3 rounds
8 x 25 choice @ :45 – odds moderate, evens fast
4 x 75 prime (fly) @ 20s rest best average
• Free kick: 9 rounds
1 x 200 kick @ 3:15
1 x 100 kick for time @ 2:00
• 600 cool-down


• This was an early-season workout in Ilya’s first year of the training group with Coach Ron Aitken. I believe part of Ilya’s ability to race consistently fast in-season and from one meet to the next comes from his attention to detail during pace-oriented sets like this. On his own, Ilya gives attention to his underwater distances and to consistency of his times during best-average-type sets. On the 75s fly, Ilya was consistently in the 42s with a few 41s.
• Something that can get overlooked are Ilya’s freestyle abilities. He is rock solid in kicking, pulling and swimming sets. During the kick set, Ilya was pushing 1:10 and a few reps under 1:10 over 9 rounds.

July 2021 PM (SCY)
National Prime (Coach Michael Kinross)
• 400 warm-up
• IM Pre-Set
4 x 100 IM switch kick @ 1:50
3 x 100 free swim pink @ 1:20
4 x 100 IM switch drill @ 1:40
2 x 100 free swim red @ 1:15
4 x 100 IM switch swim @ 1:30
1 x 100 free swim blue @ 1:10
• 10 x 400 IM @ 4:50
Ilya floated around 4:25 on these
• 1 x 400 IM broken – 4 x 100 @ 20s rest
• 4 x 100 negative-split free @ 3:00
• Paddles: 2 rounds
4 x 75 @ 1:10 backstroke – 5-10-15m UW each wall
8 x 25 @ :40 breaststroke – odds head up breast, evens breast swim
• 800 cool-down


• This workout was done during summer training after Ilya’s sophomore year of high school and about a month before his first national cut. 10 x 400 IM is always challenging in different ways for swimmers, but Ilya’s training was really starting to hit form at this time. Ilya floated near 4:25 on his 10 x 400s IM with a broken swim time of 4:09.
• Through workouts like this, Ilya began to develop his ability to swim fast at the end and finish races on the second half.

April 2021 – Following competition cycle
+ OW Junior Nationals – Age 16
• Warm-up
600 straight as (75 choice + 25 position 11 drill freestyle)
• Pre-Set: 2 rounds
5 x 50 fast feet flip turn & finish @ :50
6 x 25 @ :30 perfect turns from the middle of the pool
1 x 300 @ 4:00 descend 100s within the 300
• Main Set: 100s @ 2:01 challenge
N x 100 @ 2:01
– Must back it back before the top! (Drop-out set)
– Boys started at the :45 (so #1 = 1:15 make it)
– Girls started at the :40 (so #1 = 1:20 make it)
• Breast Work
12 x 25 @ :30 (4 pullouts – 3PO – 2PO – 1PO x3)
60s rest
6 x 75 @ 1:00 (50 breast + 25 free)
• 600 cool-down


• This workout was done following a competition cycle at the GAIN Invite and Open Water Nationals/Junior Nationals during Ilya’s sophomore year of high school.
• Ilya did very well on this set. At this point in time, he was not an ultra-confident practice swimmer on a daily basis.
• He made the 50s 100, but on 49 noticeably backed off on the third 25 before going for it again on the last 25 and went 50.2 for this 100. Still a really good result, but it was clear Ilya would benefit from more encouragement in attacking the middle half of races like the third 25 and 50.

February 2020 (LC, Pre-COVID) – Just-turned 15
Senior Elite, combination workout with National Prime (Coaches Dwight Gravley and Michael Kinross)
• Warm-up
400 warm-up
3 x 100 free kick @ 2:00
12 x 50 free @ :50 – odds drill, evens DPS
• Pre-Set: 2 rounds
1 x 400 @ 6:00 – last 100 red
1 x 300 @ 4:30 – last 100 red
1 x 200 @ 3:00 – last 100 red
• 200s free
9 x 200 free @ 2:30
• 12 x 50 back drill @ 1:05
• Backstroke: 2 rounds
2 x 50 @ 1:00 – done as 15-meter spin drill, then easy swim
1 x 100 @ 2:00 fast for time
• 300 cool-down


• This workout was done as an interval challenge for 200s free long course. At the time, Ilya was in our Senior Elite group, a transitionary group from our age group to national programs. A major focus of this group is learning how to get comfortable being uncomfortable, and to begin pushing your limits training-wise.
• 200s LC on 2:30 isn’t slow, and at just 14 years old, Ilya took this challenge on a new interval well. He made five of the nine 200s, which was a great performance for him at the time.

* * *

In mid-January 2023 at the end of a workout, Kharun did a 100 IM pull set, 20 on 1:02 short course meters. “He looked very casual through the whole swim, yet working very hard to the very end. He works very hard toward what he wants to become. He’s certainly special and will be a real addition to that training group at Arizona State,” says Des Roches.


Photo Courtesy:

Michael J. Stott is an ASCA Level 5 coach, golf and swimming writer. His critically acclaimed coming-of-age golf novel, “Too Much Loft,” is in its second printing, and is available from, Amazon, B&N and book distributors worldwide.