Kate Douglass Moves to No. 4 All-Time in 200 Breast at Tennessee Invite; Alex Walsh Blasts 1:51 200 Fly

Kate Douglass -- Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Kate Douglass Moves to No. 4 All-Time in 200 Breast at Tennessee Invite; Alex Walsh Blasts 1:51 200 Fly

The defending women’s NCAA champion Virginia Cavaliers have put on an impressive performance this weekend at the Tennessee Invitational, and the team’s two biggest stars saved the best for last. During the last session of the meet in Knoxville, third-year Kate Douglass recorded a stunning 200 breaststroke performance that made her the fourth-fastest performer ever in the event, while teammate Alex Walsh swam one of the country’s top efforts in the 200 butterfly.

The two swimmers, both Olympic medalists in the 200-meter IM at the Tokyo Games this summer, are known for their versatility and impressive performances across a wide spectrum of events, but neither has been known for their efforts in these races.

First, Douglass won the 200 breast in 2:03.58, finishing almost two seconds ahead of impressive Alabama freshman Avery Wiseman (2:05.46). Virginia’s Ella Nelson, the runnerup in the event at last year’s NCAA Championships, was just behind at 2:05.65.

Douglass, who swam this season’s fastest 200 IM on Thursday, swam a time faster than the 2:03.86 that NC State’s Sophie Hansson swam on the way to the NCAA title last season. In history, the only swimmers to ever go faster than Douglass are Lilly King (the American-record holder at 2:02.60), Bethany Galat and Kierra Smith.

Last season, Douglass skipped the 200 IM at the NCAA Championships despite having the nation’s top time, allowing Walsh to cruise to victory in that race. Instead, Douglass won the 50 free and finished second to superstar Maggie MacNeil in both the 100 fly and 100 free. Now, the 200 breast looks like a real option for Douglass on her program this season, especially with Stanford’s Torri Huske coming into the mix in the sprints.

In the next women’s event, Walsh dropped a 1:51.83 to win the 200 fly in a wire-to-wire effort. Walsh, who was fifth in both the 200 free and 200 breast at last year’s NCAAs along with her 200 IM title, moved into the all-time top-15 in the 200 fly, and only one swimmer (Michigan’s Olivia Carter, 1:51.33) beat that mark at last year’s championships. Finishing behind Walsh were Tennessee freshmen Ellen Walshe (1:53.96) and Sara Stotler (1:55.22). Earlier at this meet, Walsh swam the nation’s fastest time in the 400 IM.

But aside from those two races, Alabama swept all the other women’s races during the final night of racing. The Crimson Tide’s Rhyan White became the first woman to break 1:50 in the 200 back this season. The runnerup in the event at last year’s NCAAs and an Olympic finalist in both backstroke events in Tokyo, White posted a 1:49.73 to beat out the Virginia freshman duo of Reilly Tiltman (1:51.04) and Ella Bathurst (1:54.08).

The women’s 1650 free, meanwhile, went to Bama’s Kensey MacMahon in 15:52.05, a mark only three swimmers beat at NCAAs last year. Tennessee’s Kristen Stege, fourth at NCAAs in 2021, took second in 15:57.63, and Virginia’s Emma Weyant finished third in 16:02.51.

Alabama dominated the women’s 100 free, with seniors Kalia Antoniou and Morgan Scott going 1-2. Antoniou won in 47.71, followed by Scott in 47.94, and Bama junior Cora Dupre took third in 48.49. At the end of the session, Antoniou (47.79), Scott (47.64), Diana Petkova (47.97) and Dupre (47.19) won the 400 free relay in 3:10.59, beating out Virginia’s group of Douglass, Lexi Cuomo, Tiltman and Walsh. Douglass posted the fastest time of the day with her 47.56, and Virginia finished in 3:12.04, while Tennessee was third in 3:14.59.

On the men’s side, UNLV’s Cam Castro opened the session with a win in the 1650 free. He posted a time of 15:04.59 to beat out Tennessee teammates Jake Narvid (15:08.68) and Rafael Ponce de Leon Castilla (15:18.86). UNLV also got a win from Panos Bolanos in the 200 back as he swam a 1:41.18 to touch out Alabama’s Jake Marcum (1:41.20) by two hundredths. Third went to Bama’s Eric Stelmar (1:42.22).

Tennessee freshman Jordan Crooks edged out UVA’s Matt King to win the 100 free, 42.41 to 42.54, while Alabama’s Kaique Alves was third (42.93). Alabama’s Derek Maas then beat Tennessee’s Lyubomir Epitropov by one hundredth in the men’s 200 breast, 1:52.46 to 1:52.47. Virginia’s Noah Nichols was third in 1:54.08. The meet’s final individual event also went to Virginia as Josh Fong stormed home to pass Alabama’s Charlie Hawke in the men’s 200 fly. Fong won in 1:44.20, just ahead of Hawke (1:44.32), and Virginia’s Justin Grender took third (1:44.71).

Finally, the Virginia men finished the meet with a huge effort in the men’s 400 free relay. The team of Matt Brownstead (42.47), August Lamb (42.84), Connor Boyle (42.95) and King (41.93) won in 2:50.19, barely beating out Alabama’s team of Alves, Jonathan Berneburg, Maas and Matthew Menke. Alabama had a lead of two hundredths going into the anchor leg before King, who swam at Alabama last season, came home under 42 to get the job done. Alabama finished second in 2:50.41, and Tennessee was third in 2:51.98.

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