FLASH! Gretchen Walsh Strikes Again, Breaks 45 in 100 Free For Third Individual Record

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FLASH! Gretchen Walsh Strikes Again, Breaks 45 in 100 Free For Third Individual Record

First came a pair of NCAA records in the 50 freestyle, finishing a four-month stretch in which she knocked four tenths off the fastest time ever. Next was a 100 butterfly performance in which Walsh awed the swimming community by clocking 47.42, not only becoming the first woman ever under 48 but annihilating the barrier.

Now, after knocking off Simone Manuel’s seven-year-old American and NCAA record in the 100 freestyle at last month’s ACC Championships, Walsh has checked off another barrier by becoming the first woman ever under 45 seconds. Heavily favored to make it a third individual NCAA title this week as she entered more than a second ahead of anyone else in the field, Walsh went out in 21.40, two hundredths under her own record pace, and then she finished in 23.43 to complete this latest record-setting performance.

Walsh touched in 44.83, her fourth individual record set this meet and, amazingly, the 10th total individual record she has set this season (11 if counting an unofficial 100 fly mark set in a 100 freestyle heat).

“It was the goal to go 44, so I’m really, really happy that I was able to do this, just given how hard it is to come out on the last day and go even a best time,” Walsh said. “I couldn’t be more happy with how it ended up going. I’m looking forward to more in that race because I do think if I could have done that on the first day of the meet, maybe I could have gone something else.”

As Walsh hinted at the possibility of an even-quicker 100 free, older sister Alex Walsh laughed. “So fast,” Alex said.

Compared to what transpired one night earlier with the 47-second butterfly swim, the reaction from the crowd at Gabrielsen Natatorium was almost muted, as if most people expected Walsh to set another record and break 45, such has been the excellence of the Virginia third-year swimmer this week. But it’s worth noting that Walsh now sits seven tenths ahead of any other swimmer in history — and that swimmer (Manuel) had just won an Olympic gold medal in the 100-meter free and would soon win two consecutive world titles in the event.

“It’s pretty crazy,” Walsh said of beating Manuel’s record. “Simone is awesome. She’s a beast. To even say that I’m breaking one of her records is pretty crazy. It’s been an honor growing up racing her. She’s definitely been an inspiration for me, so I’m happy to say I’m following in her footsteps, which is awesome.”

Count Virginia athletic director Carla Williams among those in awe of Walsh. “It feels like we don’t have enough words to capture it appropriately. It just gives us smiles all the time,” Williams said. “We’re very excited, very happy for Gretchen, very happy for the program. To see what she’s been able to do individually, we don’t think we’ll see that again, so we’re taking full advantage of it. Just very, very proud of her and her teammates.”

Meanwhile, NC State’s Katharine Berkoff produced her impressive swim in as many individual events this week as she took second in 46.23. Berkoff previously won the 100 back and took second in the 50 free, and now her 100 free performance moved her to eighth all-time in the event, one spot ahead of Abbey Weitzeil. Berkoff’s fifth-year has brought her finest performance on the national level, with a trio of top-10-ranked best times, but she has only one individual win to show for it thanks to Walsh’s excellence.

Florida’s Isabel Ivey claimed third place in 46.67 while Walsh’s Virginia teammate Jasmine Nocentini just missed her third individual top-three finish of the meet by touching fourth in 47.00. Nocentini, a fifth-year swimmer who previously swam at Florida International and Northwestern, was the winner of the 100 breaststroke Friday before returning to sprint freestyle for a clash of this meet’s winners of the 100-yard events of fly, back and breast.

Event 17  Women 100 Yard Freestyle
=========================================================================
         NCAA: N 44.83  3/23/2024 Gretchen Walsh, Virginia
         Meet: M 44.83  3/23/2024 Gretchen Walsh, Virginia
     American: A 44.83  3/23/2024 Gretchen Walsh, Virginia
      US Open: O 44.83  3/23/2024 Gretchen Walsh, Virginia
         Pool: P 44.83  3/23/2024 Gretchen Walsh, Virginia
    Name                 Year School            Prelims     Finals Points 
=========================================================================
                       === Championship Final ===                        
 
  1 Walsh, Gretchen        JR Virginia            45.78      44.83N  20  
    r:+0.73  10.12        21.40 (11.28)
          33.16 (11.76)       44.83 (11.67)
  2 Berkoff, Katharine     5Y NC State            46.65      46.23   17  
    r:+0.69  10.50        22.11 (11.61)
          34.07 (11.96)       46.23 (12.16)
  3 Ivey, Isabel           5Y Florida             47.26      46.67   16  
    r:+0.68  10.62        22.31 (11.69)
          34.42 (12.11)       46.67 (12.25)
  4 Nocentini, Jasmine     SR Virginia            46.90      47.00   15  
    r:+0.61  10.43        22.35 (11.92)
          34.64 (12.29)       47.00 (12.36)
  5 Fulmer, Amy            5Y OSU                 47.04      47.18   14  
    r:+0.71  10.85        22.66 (11.81)
          34.81 (12.15)       47.18 (12.37)
  6 Regenauer, Christiana  5Y Louisville          47.20      47.20   13  
    r:+0.66  10.64        22.70 (12.06)
          35.10 (12.40)       47.20 (12.10)
  7 Peplowski, Anna        JR Indiana             47.27      47.31   12  
    r:+0.73  10.86        22.87 (12.01)
          35.13 (12.26)       47.31 (12.18)
  8 Albiero, Gabi          SR Louisville          47.33      47.37   11  
    r:+0.65  10.87        22.85 (11.98)
          35.12 (12.27)       47.37 (12.25)
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WAYNE McCauley
WAYNE McCauley
26 days ago

I remember when Steve Clark broke 47 seconds and the crowd went wild. Dave Edgar was the first man to break 45 seconds in 1971. Gretchen is amazing. I wonder how fast her 50 yard breaststroke is? How does Virginia produce freestyler who are so great as breaststrokers?

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