arena Swim of the Week: Leah Shackley Continues Rise With 59.55 100 Back

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Disclaimer: Swim of the Week is not meant to be a conclusive selection of the best overall swim of the week, but rather one Featured Swim to be explored in deeper detail. The Swim of the Week is an opportunity to take a closer look at the context of one of the many fast swims this week, perhaps a swim that slipped through the cracks as others grabbed the headlines, or a race we didn’t get to examine as closely in the flood of weekly meets.

Amidst last weekend’s busy schedule that included the Pro Swim Series in Mission Viejo, the Mare Nostrum Tour finale in Monaco and the Indy Spring Cup, the Speedo Sectionals in Richmond really flew under the radar.

Although the field wasn’t quite as stacked as the other meets, there were a few high-profile swimmers in attendance, including Thomas HeilmanErin Gemmell, and another name who has been on a rapid upward trajectory this season, Leah Shackley.

Shackley, 16, was just two weeks removed from having a breakout performance at the Renee McCutchan Invite, where she produced lifetime bests in the 100 back (59.91), 200 back (2:08.65) and 100 fly (58.07), all ranking inside the top seven all-time in the girls’ 15-16 age group.

In Richmond, Shackley re-lowered her best times in the 100 back (59.55) and 200 back (2:08.42), while she was just a tad shy in the 100 fly (58.22) and swam the first long course 200 fly of her career in 2:12.41.

The 100 back performance in particular stood out amongst the rest, as the Blair Region YMCA swimmer leapfrogs Isabelle Stadden and Rachel Bootsma to move into fifth all-time in the girls’ 15-16 age group. The only swimmers Shackley trails are three of the top current backstrokers in the U.S., Claire CurzanRegan Smith and Phoebe Bacon, along with the 2012 100 Olympic champion in the event, Missy Franklin.

All-Time Performers, Girls’ 15-16 Age Group, 100 Backstroke (LCM)

Claire Curzan (TAC Titans), 58.82 – 2021
Regan Smith (Riptide), 58.83 – 2018
Phoebe Bacon (Nation’s Capital Swim Club), 59.02 – 2019
Missy Franklin (Colorado Stars), 59.18 – 2012
Leah Shackley (Blair Regional YMCA), 59.55 – 2023
Isabelle Stadden (Aquajets Swim Team), 59.71 – 2019
Rachel Bootsma (Aquajets Swim Team), 59.77 – 2009
Maggie Wanezek (Elmbrook Swim Club), 59.96 – 2022
Elizabeth Pelton (Unattached), 59.99 – 2010
Erika Pelaez (Eagle Aquatics), 1:00.12 – 2023

Now having dropped nearly a full second in six months, Shackley has found immense gains on the second 50 of her 100 back, which aligns with the progress she’s made in the 200-meter event.

Split Comparison

Shackley, December 2022
Shackley, May 7, 2023
Shackley, May 20, 2023


1:00.45 (31.09)
59.91 (30.64)
59.55 (30.35)

Shackley also broke the overall YMCA Record, lowering the 59.71 mark established by Catie DeLoof in 2021. Prior to that, the mark stood at 1:00.94 for three years, set by Grace Ariola in 2018.

The U.S. is loaded in the women’s 100 back, but Shackley still ranks fifth in the nation and 12th worldwide in the 2022-23 season.

ShackleyUSA59.5505/20View Top 29»

After changing her collegiate commitment to NC State (having initially committed to Indiana) in late April, it’s been a busy month for Shackley with numerous impressive performances, and she’s surely established herself as someone to watch as we head to the U.S. National Championships next month in Indianapolis.

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