Gretchen Walsh Poised for Extremely Fast Finish to High School Career

gretchen walsh
Photo Courtesy: Harpeth Hall Athletics Instagram (@hhathletics)

Gretchen Walsh has been one of the top high school swimmers in the country for the past four years. Her final meet for Harpeth Hall High School will be at this weekend’s Tennessee state championships.

Walsh is the favorite to win the 50- and 100-yard freestyle events as she hopes to lead Harpeth Hall to another state championship. But it is not winning that has made Walsh one of the top young swimmers in the country. It is the way she is winning. Walsh, who has committed to Virginia, has continued to get faster and faster despite the roadblocks that came with a year in the COVID-19 pandemic.

Expected to immediately contend for individual NCAA Championships as a UVA freshman, Walsh has posted times which are among the fastest in the nation. Walsh swam her best short-course time in the 50 freestyle, clocking a 21.41 at the 2020 NAC Music City Invite, which was part of the virtual 18 & under championships. At the time, it was the second-fastest time in history among the 17-18 age group in the U.S., trailing only Simone Manuel (21.32). It was two hundredth of a second ahead of fellow young gun Torri Huske. In the 100 free, she won in 47.36 ahead of Claire Curzan (47.51) and Huske (47.60).

Each member of this remarkable trio has put together astonishing times in the past few months.

In fact, it started before the pandemic.

Gretchen Walsh also put together a career year in 2019. At U.S. Nationals, she finished second in both the 50 and 100 free, and that qualified her for the FINA World Junior Championships in Budapest. There, Gretchen won six gold medals, in the 50 and 100 free and on four relays. She swam lifetime-best efforts of 24.71 in the 50 free and 53.74 in the 100 free, both elevating her into the global top 25 for 2019.

“It was amazing. We were at the Duna Arena, and the podium is above the pool, so you get to look out over the entire natatorium,” Gretchen Walsh said. “I was so pumped after all of my races. I felt so much love for my team, too, because you can hear them in the stands. Before you get on the block, they scream your name. It just meant a lot to be up there for them, but also for myself because it just showed that everything had paid off that I had done that season.”

Now, Walsh is aiming for a spot on the Olympic team this year in the postponed Tokyo Games. But first, she is poised to throw down some of the fastest short-course times in history as she closes the high school chapter of her career.

Walsh has the chance to break her own national high school records in the 50 freestyle and 100 freestyle at the Tennessee State Champs. The 50 free record sits at 21.59, with the 100 free record at 46.98.