Gretchen Walsh Swims 21.16 50-Yard Freestyle at Dual Meet; Only Three Other Swimmers Ever Faster

Gretchen Walsh -- Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Gretchen Walsh Swims 21.16 50-Yard Freestyle at Dual Meet; Only Three Other Swimmers Ever Faster

University of Virginia sophomore Gretchen Walsh has been off to a blazing start this season despite not yet donning a racing suit, and that stretch continued as her Cavaliers raced in Austin, Texas against the Longhorns Friday night in a combined dual meet featuring women’s teams and men’s teams. In the individual 50-yard freestyle event, Walsh posted a time of 21.16, crushing her own season-best mark of 21.40 that was already tops in the country by a half-second and falling just two tenths short of her lifetime best of 20.95 from last year’s NCAA Championships, where she finished second behind teammate Kate Douglass.

No swimmer besides Douglass and Walsh beat that time all of last college season, and in the historical rankings, only Douglass, Abbey Weitzeil, Walsh and Erika Brown have ever been faster. Even sprint legend Simone Manuel never eclipsed this dual meet time, with the best mark of her excellent college career a 21.17 at the 2017 NCAA Championships.

Also in the win, Walsh led off Virginia’s 200 medley relay with a 23.13 backstroke split as the Cavaliers finished in a time of 1:34.33, almost three seconds ahead of any other team this season, and Walsh later recorded a time of 52.09 to beat Douglass by almost a second in the 100 IM. That mark is believed to be among the fastest in history in the rarely-contested event.

Finally, Walsh anchored Virginia’s mixed 400 free relay to a win in 2:58.50. She split 46.20, opening up a lead of less than three tenths to more than three seconds. For comparison, the only swimmers to eclipse that time at last year’s NCAA meet were Walsh and Douglass.

Texas ended up defeating Virginia 171-159 in the combined-gender dual meet, with traditional single-gender events set for Saturday morning.