NCAA Women’s Championships: Alex Walsh Clobbers American, NCAA Records in 200 IM Title Defense

2022-wncaa alex walsh
Alex Walsh -- Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Editorial content for the 2022 NCAA DI Women's Swimming & Diving Championships coverage is sponsored by Swiss Timing. See full event coverage.
Follow Swiss Timing on Instagram at @omega #OMEGAOfficialTimekeeper


NCAA Women’s Championships: Alex Walsh Clobbers American, NCAA Records in 200 IM Title Defense

Last season, the University of Virginia’s Alex Walsh won the NCAA title in the 200 IM as a freshman. One year later and with an Olympic silver medal in the 200-meter IM already in her pocket, Walsh is now the fastest swimmer in history in the event.

Walsh’s sophomore-year effort in the 200 IM at the national meet pitted her against fellow U.S. Olympic swimmer Torri Huske, and while Huske took the lead for the first half of the race, Walsh stayed close before surging ahead with an amazing breaststroke leg. Walsh’s 31.64 on that leg was more than a second faster than Huske, a Stanford freshman, and she pulled away on the freestyle. Walsh touched the wall in 1:50.08, six tenths faster than the previous American, NCAA and U.S. Open records of 1:50.67 that Ella Eastin set at the 2018 NCAA Championships.

“I felt really strong in warmup. I wanted to see where I was at,” Walsh said. “1:53-flat is really good for a prelims swim. I felt really ready, and that is really rare for me. But I knew what I had to do and felt really good in warmups. Racing Torri is always really fun and exciting. She motivated me to go even faster. I was really shocked to see that time on the board.”

Walsh cut almost a second-and-a-half from her previous lifetime-best time of 1:51.53, but more importantly for the 20-year-old from Nashville and her Virginia team, the Cavaliers scored 37 points overall between Walsh, eighth-place swimmer Ella Nelson and 11th-place Abby Harter. The event fell in the middle of a three-event stretch for Virginia that saw Emma Weyant finish second in the 500 free and then Kate Douglass and Gretchen Walsh (Alex’s younger sister) go 1-2 in the 50 free, with Douglass setting another American record in the process.

Huske, meanwhile, finished second in 1:51.81, making her the 10th-fastest performer in history in the event. Huske was more than a half-second faster than her previous best time, the 1:52.42 she set at the Pac-12 Championships last month, hinting at some big performances to come in the next few days in the 100 butterfly, 100 freestyle and three relays. Third went to Cal’s Isabel Ivey in 1:53.02, just ahead of Georgia’s Zoie Hartman (1:53.15) and Texas’ Kelly Pash (1:53.31).

It is no surprise to see that Walsh recorded the first American record of her career in the 200 IM, an event that perfectly matches her skill set. While so many would-be IM stars are hindered by a weak stroke or two, Walsh has no such flaws in her race. Consider her abilities in each of the strokes: Walsh was the Pan American Games champion in 2019 in the 200-meter backstroke, and she is the second-fastest performer in history in the 200-yard breaststroke. She is not as strong on freestyle, but she split under 1:42 on Virginia’s 800 freestyle relay Wednesday before posting the fastest freestyle split in the 200 IM final here.

But the only stroke Walsh is racing individually this week is butterfly, and she is the fifth seed — and a serious national-title threat — in Saturday’s 200 fly. When the Cavaliers demolished the American record in the 400 medley relay last month, Walsh swam the fly leg, and she is likely to handle that leg again Friday. That combination of strokes and speeds makes all adds up to record-breaking speed in the 200 IM.

Next up on the schedule, Walsh turns her attention to the 400 IM. Walsh enters the event as the second seed behind defending NCAA champion Brooke Forde, but she has never swum the event at a major championship meet and never even considered it a possibility before she unexpectedly dropped a 4:01.40 at the Tennessee Invitational in November.

After that race, Virginia head coach Todd DeSorbo told Walsh, “You just bought yourself more 400 IMs.” Walsh agreed, and after Thursday’s record-breaking swim, we’ll see if Walsh can extend her dominance to double the distance.

Event 4  Women 200 Yard IM
         NCAA: N 1:50.67  3/15/2018 Ella Eastin, Stanford
         Meet: M 1:50.67  3/15/2018 Ella Eastin, Stanford
     American: A 1:50.67  3/15/2018 Ella Eastin, Stanford
      US Open: O 1:50.67  3/15/2018 Ella Eastin, Stanford
         Pool: P 1:51.65  3/17/2016 Ella Eastin, Stanford
    Name                 Year School            Prelims     Finals Points 
                       === Championship Final ===                        
  1 Walsh, Alex            SO Virginia          1:53.00    1:50.08N  20  
    r:+0.73  23.95        51.45 (27.50)
        1:23.09 (31.64)     1:50.08 (26.99)
  2 Huske, Torri           FR Stanford          1:54.05    1:51.81   17  
    r:+0.61  23.87        51.39 (27.52)
        1:24.12 (32.73)     1:51.81 (27.69)
  3 Ivey, Isabel           SR California        1:54.49    1:53.02   16  
    r:+0.72  23.97        51.78 (27.81)
        1:25.49 (33.71)     1:53.02 (27.53)
  4 Hartman, Zoie          JR Georgia           1:54.50    1:53.15   15  
    r:+0.74  25.57        53.37 (27.80)
        1:25.76 (32.39)     1:53.15 (27.39)
  5 Pash, Kelly            JR Texas             1:54.18    1:53.31   14  
    r:+0.70  24.53        52.48 (27.95)
        1:26.10 (33.62)     1:53.31 (27.21)
  6 Foley, Sally           SO Duke              1:54.57    1:54.38   13  
    r:+0.66  25.08        54.68 (29.60)
        1:27.15 (32.47)     1:54.38 (27.23)
  7 Hay, Abby              JR Louisville        1:54.33    1:54.93   12  
    r:+0.70  24.45        52.99 (28.54)
        1:26.94 (33.95)     1:54.93 (27.99)
  8 Nelson, Ella           JR Virginia          1:54.48    1:55.01   11  
    r:+0.65  25.44        54.73 (29.29)
        1:27.78 (33.05)     1:55.01 (27.23)
Notify of

Welcome to our community. We invite you to join our discussion. Our community guidelines are simple: be respectful and constructive, keep on topic, and support your fellow commenters. Commenting signifies that you agree to our Terms of Use

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x