A supremely gifted athlete with a willingness to endure unmatched levels of preparation, Jim Wells epitomized the spirit of Peddie swimming. His remarkable versatility earned him legendary status on a team that featured Olympians Nelson Diebel ’90, Royce Sharp ’91, Peter Wright ’91 and Barbara Bedford ’90. The perennial go-to guy in the competitive pool, Wells became coach Chris Martin’s ironman who pushed others to give 100 percent, but for all of his notoriety and acclaim for winning, he never lost respect for his teammates on the deck. During Wells’ memorable three-year career at Peddie, his self-discipline and confidence to excel, coupled with a swimming program geared to his style, drove his success.
Can you imagine Peddie records set in 1991 and 1992 still standing today? Two decades after Wells left the Clinton I. Sprout Pool, his legacy lives on in the new pool as Peddie swimmers chase his marks. Still intact are records in the 100-yard freestyle (44.64, 1991), 200 free (1:36.69, 1991), 500 free (4:21.98, National Prep Record 1991), 400 free relay (3:01.87, 1991) and the 200 medley relay (1:31.46, 1992). His 200 free record continues to be the standard to beat at the Eastern Interscholastic Championships, while it took almost a decade for his National Prep record to be lowered.
Wells’ prodigious feats in the water helped the boys’ team win two straight Swimming World Magazine national high school championships. From Peddie’s Sprout Pool to USC’s McDonald’s Swim Stadium, Wells continued to be a clutch performer. He broke at least one USC backstroke record every year as the holder of both the 100- and 200-yard backstrokes and was every bit as good in the 50, 100 and 200 free events.
“From his freshman year on, he’s always been a leader by example,” said legendary USC coach Mark Schubert of his co-captain. “Being one of the harder working guys on the team and being such an important part of the team, he’s become our spiritual leader. He really gets into the team aspect of the sport.”
A two-time Olympic Trial competitor (1992, 1996) and a multi-event finalist at NCAA Division I championships, Wells had the honor of representing the USA in international meets. He claimed a gold medal at the 1991 Pan Am Games in the 800-meter relay and competed in the World University Games in 1993.
“I’ve tried to really lead by example,” Wells said in a 1996 interview. “I try to make sure everyone on the team stays confident, because I think that’s really important.”
A coach’s dream possessing uncanny determination and abilities, “Big Jim” Wells has epitomized excellence. Peddie is proud to induct one of its finest swimmers into the Sports Hall of Fame.