Winter Junior Nationals: Alex Shackell Swims Historic 50 Fly Relay Split Ever Before 1:42 200 Free

Alex Shackell -- Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Winter Junior Nationals: Alex Shackell Ties Fastest 50 Fly Relay Split Ever Before 1:42 200 Free

Just over four months ago, Alex Shackell dove into the pool for the biggest moment of her career, anchoring the U.S. women’s 800 freestyle relay at the World Championships. Shackell earned her spot after an unexpected fifth-place finish in the 200 free at U.S. Nationals and an excellent prelims relay split, and she dove in with a narrow lead, even if there was never much of a chance for her to hold off Australian star Ariarne Titmus for gold.

Now, after committing to swim at Cal in the fall of 2025, the 17-year-old Shackell has picked up where she left off but in the short course yards format. But as the eastern and western editions of U.S. Winter Junior Nationals kicked off Wednesday night, Shackell was not the only young swimmer posting nationally-relevant swims.

At the eastern meet in Columbus, Ohio, Shackell ripped a pair of stunning swims as part of Carmel Swim Club’s relays. First, she swam butterfly on Carmel’s 200 medley relay and split 21.95, faster than any woman recorded at last year’s NCAA Championships and among the quickest ever recorded.

Carmel’s team of Ellie ClarkeMolly Sweeney, Shackell and Grace Dougherty finished second in the relay in 1:38.35, with Lakeside Swim Team’s Charlotte CrushGeorgia KahlerSydney Braeger and Haley McDonald coming in just ahead at 1:38.13 thanks to McDonald’s 22.19 closing split. Michigan Lakeshore took third in 1:40.55 with Grace AlbrechtSophia UmsteadEllie Todd and Camryn Siegers.

Not long after, Shackell was back to lead off the Carmel 800 free relay, and she posted a stunning 1:42.28 leadoff split, moving into the all-time top-25 in the event. The time is actually quicker than the 1:42.36 that Taylor Ruck swam to win last year’s NCAA title. Shackell was followed by Lynsey Bowen, Sweeney and Kayla Han, with all splitting 1:45s or 1:46s on the way to a final time of 6:59.52. Carmel won by more than 13 seconds, with SwimMAC Carolina’s Elle ScotZetta Grace BarteeSofia Plaza and Clarke Neace second in 7:12.97 and Lakeside Swim Team’s Crush, McDonald, Braeger and Eli Summa third in 7:14.26.

Meanwhile, not too far west in Westmont, Ill., Crow Canyon’s Bailey Hartman and Mission Viejo’s Teagan O’Dell both played hero roles for their teams in the 800 free relay. Hartman, a future Virginia swimmer who anchored Crow Canyon in a sizzling time of 1:42.79 for a comeback win. Ellie Butler, Raya Mellott and Madison O’Connell joined Hartman on Crow Canyon’s team, which clocked 7:09.01. For some comparison, only five swimmers (including Hartman’s older sister Zoie) beat that 1:42.79 split at last year’s NCAA Championships.

The Mission Viejo Nadadores had O’Dell leading off in 1:43.35, a time which would have placed fifth at last year’s NCAAs, before Teia Salvino, Kaelia Hughes and Victoria Mori completed the relay in 7:09.73. O’Dell was last year’s High School Swimmer of the Year, and like Shackell, she will matriculate at Cal in less than two years. Bellevue Swim Club, featuring the most balanced of the relay teams, took third with Alexa McDevitt, Sophia SunwooGracyn Kehoe and Piper Enge (7:10.22).

Crow Canyon topped both girls’ relays at the west meet. Madison O’Connell, Mellott, Hartman and Liberty Clark finished in a time of 1:37.86 in the 200 medley relay to comfortably beat a loaded Mission Viejo team consisting of Salvino, O’Dell, Chloe Stinson and Gracyn Aquino (1:38.64). Bellevue Swim Club, with 2024 World Championships team member Enge swimming breaststroke along with Sunwoo, Clare Watson and Mary Clark, took third (1:40.32).

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