Gretchen Walsh Swims 20.94 50 Freestyle in Knoxville; One Tenth Off American and NCAA Records

Gretchen Walsh -- Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Gretchen Walsh Swims 20.94 50 Freestyle in Knoxville; One Tenth Off American and NCAA Records

A long course breakthrough at U.S. Nationals in late July positioned Gretchen Walsh for a huge start to her sophomore season at the University of Virginia, and she was undoubtedly the most impressive performer during the fall dual meet season. She entered the weekend with the nation’s top time in the 100 butterfly, and in a dual meet against Texas two weeks ago, she went 21.16 in the 50 freestyle, a time that only Virginia teammate Kate DouglassAbbey Weitzeil, Walsh and Erika Brown had ever beaten.

The bar in the splash-and-dash was raised further Wednesday night when Louisiana State’s Maggie Mac Neil blasted a time of 21.03 at the Art Adamson Invitational, which tied her with Brown for fourth all-time, but Walsh went faster Thursday — twice. First, Walsh led off a Virginia 200 free relay squad in 21.02, and about 90 minutes later, she won the individual event in 20.94. That time narrowly eclipsed Walsh’s previous best, a 20.95 from her runnerup finish to Douglass at last season’s NCAA Championships, and only Douglass and Weitzeil have ever posted quicker marks.

Douglass ended up second her in 21.46, although she did swim marks of 21.17 in prelims and 21.25 as a relay leadoff earlier in the night, so she ranks third in the event this season behind Walsh and Mac Neil. North Carolina’s Grace Countie (21.68) and Virginia’s Maxine Parker (21.86) also swam under 22 seconds.

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1 year ago

Olivia Nel – UNC 21.92. 😊

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