FLASH! Gretchen Walsh Beats 50 Free Record Again With 20.57 at ACC Champs

Gretchen Walsh -- Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

FLASH! Gretchen Walsh Beats 50 Free Record Again With 20.57 at ACC Champs

For the second time in a day, Gretchen Walsh has broken the American, NCAA and U.S. Open records in the 50 freestyle, and this time, she did so by a massive margin of two tenths, continuing her domination of the sprint events. In the final of the splash-and-dash at the ACC Championships in Greensboro, N.C., Walsh recorded a mark of 20.57 in the event, beating the previous record of 20.77 she set in prelims.

Walsh did not get off to a great start, with the 21-year-old appearing to enter the water behind all seven other competitors in the final. She flipped in 10.05, only two hundredths ahead of Virginia teammate Jasmine Nocentini but eight hundredths ahead of her mark from prelims. From there, Walsh shined, opening up a huge lead with a ridiculous 10.52 closing lap, more than three tenths ahead of anyone else.

This latest record-breaking effort adds to a pair of sensational relay swims from Walsh at this meet, including a 1:40.23 leadoff split on Virginia’s 800 free relay that made her the third-fastest performer evet in the event and a 19.95 50-yard split on Virginia’s record-setting 200 free relay earlier Thursday night, about 90 minutes prior to her flat-start 50 performance.

“I think I definitely surprised myself today, and a lot of other people,” Walsh said, in a video posted to the Virginia Swimming and Diving’s official X account. “We didn’t really even taper for this meet, so I think I have more in the tank. The relay split was insane. Breaking the NCAA record twice in one day was insane. I’m really proud of myself.”

The swim marked the 15th time in history that a swimmer has broken 21 seconds in the 50 free, and Walsh is now responsible for nine of those swims, with Maggie Mac NeilKate Douglass and Abbey Weitzeil accounting for the rest of those performances. Walsh has now set this record on four occasions. She swam a time of 20.83 at last year’s ACC Championships, but she surrendered the top spot to Maggie Mac Neil at the NCAA Championships. In November, Walsh tied Mac Neil’s top time at 20.79 before going 20.77 in Wednesday’s prelims and now the insane 20.57.

It’s no surprise to see Walsh excelling at the conference meet given that she has been swimming among the fastest times in history even during the dual-meet season (and sometimes in a practice suit). One of her sub-21s came at Virginia’s home meet last month against North Carolina and NC State.

“Throughout the entire year, I just train to be fast all the time,” Walsh said. “Every day in practice, we’re doing all-out stuff, and I always like to be going times and impressing myself, so I would say I train to be at this high level all the time. When it hits, it hits. The fact that I’m going these times is awesome, but I still hope I can go faster at NCAAs.”

Meanwhile, it was an incredible swim from Nocentini to take second in 21.13, making her the sixth-fastest woman ever in the 50 free. NC State’s Katharine Berkoff was third in 21.23. Berkoff went 21.14 leading off NC State’s 200 free relay earlier in the night, a mark now ranked seventh in history. The Louisville trio of Christiana Regenauer (21.46), Julia Dennis (21.74) and Gabi Albiero (21.77) occupied the next three spots.

Event 13  Women 50 Yard Freestyle
         MEET: # 20.77  2/21/2024 Gretchen Walsh, UVA-AC
         CONF: % 20.77  2/21/2024 Gretchen Walsh, UVA-AC
         AMER: $ 20.77  2/21/2024 Gretchen Walsh, UVA-AC
         USOP: & 20.77  2/21/2024 Gretchen Walsh, UVA-AC
         NCAA: ! 20.77  2/21/2024 Gretchen Walsh, UVA-AC
         Pool: * 20.77  2/21/2024 Gretchen Walsh, UVA-AC
                 21.63  A
                 22.15  IV23 Invited NCAA 2023
                 22.67  B
    Name           Year School            Prelims     Finals       Points 
                            === A - Final ===                            
  1 Walsh, Gretchen     UVA                 20.77      20.57#A       32  
    r:+0.76  10.05        20.57 (10.52)
  2 Nocentini, Jasm     UVA                 21.30      21.13 A       28  
    r:+0.62  10.07        21.13 (11.06)
  3 Berkoff, Kathar     NC State            21.38      21.23 A       27  
    r:+0.71  10.35        21.23 (10.88)
  4 Regenauer, Chri     Louisville          21.56      21.46 A       26  
    r:+0.67  10.36        21.46 (11.10)
  5 Dennis, Julia       Louisville          21.68      21.74 IV23    25  
    r:+0.63  10.21        21.74 (11.53)
  6 Albiero, Gabrie     Louisville          21.61      21.77 IV23    24  
    r:+0.63  10.58        21.77 (11.19)
  7 Parker, Maxine      UVA                 21.81      21.81 IV23    23  
    r:+0.70  10.70        21.81 (11.11)
  8 Yendell, Sophie     Pitt                21.90      21.83 IV23    22  
    r:+0.69  10.34        21.83 (11.49)
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