Gretchen Walsh, Jordan Crooks Finish Off Tennessee Invite With 100 Freestyle Wins

Gretchen Walsh -- Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Gretchen Walsh, Jordan Crooks Finish Off Tennessee Invite With 100 Freestyle Wins

On the final night of the Tennessee Invitational, Virginia’s Kate Douglass lowered her own American and NCAA records in the 200 breaststroke, and impressive performances highlighted the sprint freestyle events. Defending NCAA champion Gretchen Walsh came up just shy of recording the fastest time in the women’s 100 free while Jordan Crooks continued his breakout weekend with a win in the men’s 100 free.

Women’s 1650 Freestyle

In the opening event of the day, Virginia’s Sophia Knapp recorded the top time overall at 16:12.11. She opened up a lead over Tennessee’s Aly Breslin and pulled away to win by six seconds. Michigan’s Kathryn Ackerman took second in 16:16.18, while Breslin fell to third in 16:18.86.

Men’s 1650 Freestyle

The Tennessee men went 1-2 in the 66-lap race as Jake Narvid was the only swimmer under 15:00 with his time of 14:58.21 and Joey Tepper finished second in 15:02.99. Some six seconds back in third place was Michigan’s Jared Daigle (15:08.67).

Women’s 200 Backstroke

Tennessee’s Josephine Fuller, the 38th-place finisher in the 200 back at the NCAA Championships last year, put together a huge midseason performance as she jumped to second in the country. Fuller clobbered the field by more than three seconds, and she finished in 1:50.12, behind only Claire Curzan (1:48.50) in the national rankings so far. The event is one of the strongest in the country, but Fuller’s time would have been good for seventh in last year’s NCAA final.

Second place here went to North Carolina’s Sophie Lindner in 1:53.46, while Virginia’s Ella Bathurst took third in 1:54.40.

Men’s 200 Backstroke

Tennessee’s Harrison Lierz got the better of Virginia’s Jack Aikins by three tenths at the finish. In a back-and-forth affair, Aikins moved ahead of Lierz by a tenth with 50 yards to go, but Lierz closed to finish in 1:42.05. Aikins, the B-final winner at NCAAs last year and the U.S. Nationals winner in the 200-meter back in July, placed second in 1:42.37, while Tennessee’s Landon Driggers finished third in 1:43.20.

Women’s 100 Freestyle

Virginia’s Gretchen Walsh, the NCAA champion in the event last year, won the event by more than a second, but she fell just short of recording the country’s top time so far. Walsh finished in 46.89, a little under a second shy of her best time (46.05) that ranks her fourth all-time, and she was just off the mark of 46.85 that Stanford’s Torri Huske recorded at the NC State Invitational. Huske is likely the biggest threat to Walsh’s hopes of defending her title.

Michigan’s Lindsay Flynn placed second in 48.13, just ahead of Walsh’s Virginia teammate Maxine Parker (48.33).

Men’s 100 Freestyle

A magnificent weekend of racing for Tennessee’s Jordan Crooks continued as he swam the nation’s top time in the country in a third event after previously doing so in the 50 free and 100 fly. After swimming a time of 41.17 in prelims, just off his lifetime best of 41.16 that is tied for 14th all-time, Crooks went 41.29 in the final to hold off freshman teammate Gui Caribe.

Caribe finished second in 41.44, good for second nationally behind Crooks. Those times rank ahead of the likes of Florida’s Josh Liendo (41.70) and LSU’s Brooks Curry (41.86), although there remains a long way to go this college season. Virginia’s Matt King also went under 42 as she claimed third in 41.93, good for the No. 5 time nationally.

Men’s 200 Breaststroke

A tight race in the men’s 200 breast went to Tennessee fifth-year swimmer Lyubomir Epitropov, who came home in 29.49 to move ahead of the Virginia duo of Noah Nichols and Max Iida. Epitropov finished in 1:53.18, while Nichols took second in 1:53.57 and Iida placed third in 1:53.81.

Women’s 200 Butterfly

Virginia’s Abby Harter pulled away from North Carolina’s Ellie Vannote on the final 50 for a 200 fly win in 1:54.45. Harter finished 11th at the NCAA Championships last year, and she was just a second shy of her championship time as she finished in 1:54.45. Vannote took second in 1:55.16, and then there was a big gap back to the rest of the field. Michigan’s Katie Crom came on strong at the end to tie Tennessee’s Sara Stotler for third in 1:57.44.

Men’s 200 Butterfly

Michigan’s Gal Cohen Groumi cruised to a dominant win in the 200 fly, and he swam a mark of 1:41.40 for the third-fastest time in the country so far this season behind Arizona State swimmers Leon Marchand and Alexander Colson. Tennessee’s Martin Espernberger placed second in 1:42.56, and North Carolina’s Patrick Hussey came in third in 1:43.60.

Women’s 400 Freestyle Relay

The Virginia women finished more than four seconds off the American and NCAA records they set last year, but they had no trouble cruising to a 400 freestyle relay win as their primary stars came through again. The team of Kate DouglassGretchen WalshAlex Walsh and Maxine Parker finished in 3:11.18. The younger Walsh sister split 46.62 for the top time in the race while Douglass led off in 47.67 and Alex Walsh went 47.70 on her split.

Michigan’s Lindsay FlynnChristey LiangClaire Newman and Katie Crom finished second in 3:14.98, and North Carolina’s Greer PattisonOlivia NelSophie Lindner and Ellie Vannote finished third in 3:15.22.

Men’s 400 Freestyle Relay

Just like the Virginia women, Tennessee’s men wrapped up the meet in style as Gui CaribeJordan CrooksBjoern Kammann and Aleksey Tarasenko combined for a time of 2:47.27. That time would have been good enough for fifth at last year’s NCAA Championships (a race where Tennessee actually placed 16th), and the improvements are thanks to Caribe blasting a 41.55 leadoff split, just off his best time of 41.44 from earlier in the night, and Crooks blazing a 40.87 second leg.

Virginia finished second with Jack AikinsMatt BrownsteadTim Connery and Matt King coming in at 2:49.88. King entered the water nine tenths behind Michigan, but he finished in 40.91 to pull into second place. Michigan’s Gal Cohen GromiBence SzabadosNikola Acin and Eitan Ben-Shitrit took third in 2:52.16.