NCAA Women’s Championships: Alex Walsh Swims Second-Fastest Time Ever in 200 IM at 1:49.20

Alex Walsh -- Photo Courtesy: Peter H, Bick

NCAA Women’s Championships: Alex Walsh Swims Second-Fastest Time Ever in 200 IM at 1:49.20

One season ago, Alex Walsh entered the NCAA Championships as the two-time defending national champion in the 200 IM and fastest swimmer ever, but she could not keep pace as talented teammate Kate Douglass made her lone appearance on the national stage in the event. Walsh never led in the event, and even though she swam a best time by one hundredth, she ended up third, with Douglass demolishing Walsh’s American and NCAA records while Torri Huske edged out Walsh for second place. Months later, Douglass would overtake Walsh to steal away the world title in the long course 200-meter IM.

But this time, with Douglass graduated and Huske redshirting, Walsh was again the huge favorite in the shorter medley at the national meet. No other swimmer in the field had ever been under 1:52, with Walsh owning a best time of 1:50.07. Indeed, she came through with a dramatic performance, scaring Douglass’ record while posting just the second sub-1:50 performance in history.

Walsh started quickly, opening up a lead of almost a second before she moved into the breaststroke leg, her best stroke, and she came through with a magnificent split of 31.20, quicker than Douglass swam on her way to the record performance of 1:48.37 last season. In fact, Douglass was only one hundredth off record pace at 1:22.30. She faded slightly on freestyle, with Florida’s Isabel Ivey actually closing the gap slightly on the leader, but Walsh came through with an emphatic performance.

She touched in 1:49.20, knocking more than eight tenths from her personal-best time. Her mark is only the second swim ever under 1:50 after Douglass first broke the barrier last season.

This NCAA win likely ranks as her finest swim since capturing her lone individual world title in the 200 IM in June 2022, and Walsh indicated the significant relief she felt with her swim when, in an on-deck interview after the race, she referred to her 2023 season as “less than optimal.” Such is the high standard which Walsh expects from herself.

alex walsh

Alex Walsh — Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

“I think last year I just kind of struggled with several factors. I remember Todd was telling me that he kind of thought I was just lost, and I think that was a really good way to describe it. I think that happens in every athlete’s career,” Walsh said. ” This year, I’ve really put my head down and wanted to get back to a place that I had never been before, especially me second year when I had a great NCAA and international season. I just wanted to be back in that place because I knew I was capable of it.”

Walsh added that she has seen a dramatic improvement in her weight-room work this season, and she has felt the re-emergence coming. She cited her strong performance in long course at the Pro Swim Series in Knoxville, Tenn., in January, when she clocked a time of 2:07.63 in the 200-meter IM that was just a half-second off her best time, as a key moment as she built momentum toward the conclusion of the college season.

“She never let on last year that she was having any issues or she was concerned about anything,” Virginia head coach Todd DeSorbo said. “I think she just wasn’t necessarily happy with her performances. Maybe she just rested on her laurels a little bit last year, coming off of her second year which was really, really good, winning a world title and setting the NCAA record in the 200 IM. I think maybe she just relaxed a little bit, didn’t have that kind of sense of urgency maybe.

“We talked about it at the beginning of this year. It’s a big year. It’s an Olympic year. If we want to do the things you’re capable of doing, you’re going to have to elevate. You’re going to have to not work harder but work smarter.”

The title was Walsh’s sixth NCAA individual win in her career and the third in the 200 IM. Walsh will be favored to win further titles in the 400 IM and 200 breaststroke later in the week. So far this season, younger sister Gretchen Walsh has gobbled up most of the headlines around the four-peat-seeking Cavaliers with her numerous record-breaking performances, but Alex remains a star and a top-two performer in college swimming.

“It’s definitely really cool to think about my career, especially as it pertains to what I’ve been able to do at Virginia,” Alex said. “Today, winning my third national championship in the 200 IM, hearing (Elizabeth) Beisel say that in the post-race interview was a really cool moment for me, just being able to think that having that accomplishment and being able to drop this year, that’s something that not a lot of people can do, just because of the nature of the sport. I’ve been really trying to cherish every moment that I can with the team.”

A tight race for second place went to Ivey in 1:51.96, with the Florida fifth-year swimmer splitting 26.57 on the way home to overtake Tennessee’s Josephine Fuller, 1:51.96 to 1:52.04. Both swimmers were impressive on Wednesday’s 800 free relay, with Ivey establishing a huge lead for Florida on the second leg and Fuller moving Tennessee into second place with a phenomenal anchor split.

Stanford’s Lucy Bell, who was in eighth place at the halfway point, blasted a 31.00 split on breaststroke to move into fourth place. She also broke 1:53 as she clocked 1:52.64, a half-second clear of Wisconsin’s Phoebe Bacon (1:53.16).

Event 4  Women 200 Yard IM
         NCAA: N 1:48.37  3/16/2023 Kate Douglass, Virginia
         Meet: M 1:48.37  3/16/2023 Kate Douglass, Virginia
     American: A 1:48.37  3/16/2023 Kate Douglass, Virginia
      US Open: O 1:48.37  3/16/2023 Kate Douglass, Virginia
         Pool: P 1:51.62  2/20/2019 Meghan Small, Tennessee
    Name                 Year School            Prelims     Finals Points 
                       === Championship Final ===                        
  1 Walsh, Alex            SR Virginia          1:51.95    1:49.20P  20  
    r:+0.75  23.80        51.10 (27.30)
        1:22.30 (31.20)     1:49.20 (26.90)
  2 Ivey, Isabel           5Y Florida           1:53.63    1:51.96   17  
    r:+0.77  24.23        52.02 (27.79)
        1:25.39 (33.37)     1:51.96 (26.57)
  3 Fuller, Josephine      JR Tennessee         1:52.95    1:52.04   16  
    r:+0.67  24.59        52.01 (27.42)
        1:25.09 (33.08)     1:52.04 (26.95)
  4 Bell, Lucy             SO Stanford          1:53.50    1:52.64   15  
    r:+0.67  25.04        54.70 (29.66)
        1:25.70 (31.00)     1:52.64 (26.94)
  5 Bacon, Phoebe          SR Wisconsin         1:53.53    1:53.16   14  
    r:+0.68  24.51        53.02 (28.51)
        1:25.83 (32.81)     1:53.16 (27.33)
  6 Pash, Kelly            5Y Texas             1:53.37    1:53.64   13  
    r:+0.75  24.47        52.72 (28.25)
        1:26.29 (33.57)     1:53.64 (27.35)
  7 Nelson, Ella           5Y Virginia          1:53.05    1:53.65   12  
    r:+0.68  25.72        54.42 (28.70)
        1:26.71 (32.29)     1:53.65 (26.94)
  8 Dixon, Zoe             SO Florida           1:53.73    1:54.27   11  
    r:+0.65  24.63        53.32 (28.69)
        1:26.50 (33.18)     1:54.27 (27.77)
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