Gretchen Walsh Begins Junior Season With 20.84 Freestyle Split in Virginia Relay Exhibition

Gretchen Walsh -- Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Gretchen Walsh Begins Junior Season With 20.84 Freestyle Split in Virginia Relay Exhibition

An impressive performance at this year’s NCAA Championships saw Gretchen Walsh win the second and third individual national titles of her career, with the fastest time ever in the 100-yard backstroke and the second-quickest time ever in the 100-yard freestyle. After those efforts contributed to a third consecutive team title for the University of Virginia, Walsh made the jump to long course for the first time, qualifying to swim three individual events plus relays for the U.S. team at the World Championships.

The 20-year-old Nashville native had mixed results in her first senior-level international competition, but she did get onto the individual podium as the bronze medalist in the 50-meter butterfly. Walsh also swam legs on the finals squads of a silver-medal-winning 400 free relay and a golden 400 medley relay.

Now, she’s back in the short course pool preparing for her junior season with the Cavaliers. Walsh, along with older sister Alex Walsh, is expected to take over the role as Virginia’s biggest point-scorer after Kate Douglass graduated. Even after a post-Worlds swimming break and the start of a new school year, younger Walsh is already off to a quick start.

At a practice Friday morning, Virginia lined up 200 medley relays featuring the four classes competing against each other. The younger Walsh sister anchored the third-years’ squad in a sizzling 20.84. Wearing only a practice suit, Walsh surpassed any times recorded at last year’s NCAAs aside from Douglass’ 20.34, Maggie Mac Neil’s 20.37 and her own 20.59. Mac Neil has also concluded her college career, so Walsh is already ahead of what any other current collegian swam last season.

Meanwhile, Claire Curzan raced with her new Virginia teammates, swimming backstroke on the second-years’ team and splitting 24.32. Curzan transferred to UVA this offseason but will not suit up in official college competition this season. Curzan and breaststroker Emma Weber (28.39) helped their team win, while Abby Harter was the fastest on fly (23.97). Alex Walsh, meanwhile, swam backstroke for the fourth-years and went 24.72.

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