NCAA Women’s Championships: Kate Douglass Anchors in 20.3, Virginia Sets NCAA and American Records in 200 Medley Relay

Virginia's Kate Douglass -- Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

NCAA Women’s Championships: Kate Douglass Anchors in 20.3, Virginia Sets NCAA and American Records in 200 Medley Relay

For a brief moment, it looked like Virginia might be vulnerable in the opening race of the NCAA Women’s Championships in Knoxville, Tenn., in the 200 medley relay. One month earlier, Virginia had beaten NC State by more than a second in the event at the ACC Championships as the Cavaliers swam a time of 1:31.73, knocking eight hundredths off the previous NCAA and American records set by UVA last season, but at the halfway point, the second-seeded Wolfpack held a half-second lead.

But Virginia, heavily favored to win a third consecutive national title this week after dominant efforts in 2021 and 2022, was not going to be felled by a mere half-second deficit. While sisters Gretchen Walsh and Alex Walsh split slightly slower than their marks from the ACC Championships on the first two legs, Lexi Cuomo and Kate Douglass made up the difference. Cuomo split 22.10 on the butterfly leg to pull her team within one hundredth of NC State, and Douglass came home in the fastest relay split ever to cement the win.

“This is my favorite relay because it is the first race,” Douglass said. “I was really excited for the race. I always feel really fresh in the water. I hit my turn right and hit the finish right. It was just a good race altogether. This was the first time we had been faster in this race at NCAAs. Usually ACCs is the fastest. That gave us a lot of confidence for this meet.”

Cuomo had a reaction time of 0.01.

“I was trying to channel the energy from the team into my swim,” Cuomo said. “I am usually pretty aggressive. It was a little closer than I was planning, but I was happy to have a good swim.”

Virginia finished in 1:31.51, 0.22 quicker than the time established by the same quartet one month earlier, and Douglass’ historic split was 20.34, much quicker than her previous top split of 20.49 and a half-second ahead of Gretchen Walsh’s 50 free flat-start record of 20.83.

“We have put in a lot of work to get to this point and I was ready to go,” Gretchen Walsh said. “I wanted to get as fast a start as I could, and gave it everything I had.”

NC State did take second in 1:32.42, with the team of Katharine BerkoffHeather MacCauslandKylee Alons and Abby Arens. Berkoff split 22.88 on backstroke, just a tenth behind Gretchen Walsh, while MacCausland’s breaststroke split (25.69) was second-best in the field. This group beat the NC State school record of 1:32.96 set last season, and the Wolfpack remain the only team aside from Virginia to ever crack 1:33 in this relay.

The Texas team of Olivia BrayAnna ElendtEmma Sticklen and Grace Cooper finished third in 1:33.22. Elendt blasted a 25.54 breaststroke split which was tops in the field, and Sticklen’s fly split of 22.32 was behind only Cuomo.

Ohio State’s Nyah FunderburkeHannah BachKatherine Zenick and Teresa Ivan placed fourth in a strong time of 1:33.93, while Louisville’s Abby HayCecilia VibergChristiana Regenauer and Gabi Albiero took fifth (1:34.37). Albiero anchored in 20.88, while Grace Countie of eighth-place North Carolina also split under 21 (20.99). Further down in the results, a strong swim from Cal helped the Golden Bears place sixth overall out of the second-to-last heat while Florida, after originally finishing ninth, was disqualified for a false start.

Notably, Stanford’s Claire CurzanAllie RaabEmma Wheal and Amy Tang finished ninth in 1:35.44. Curzan led off in 23.26, the third-fastest backstroke split behind Gretchen Walsh and Berkoff, but most significant is that Stanford did not utilize either Torri Huske or Taylor Ruck on this relay, leaving both available for all four remaining relays this week. Stanford is favored for top-three finishes in all of those events, and Huske and Ruck will lead the Cardinal’s favored 800 free relay later in the session.

Event 1  Women 200 Yard Medley Relay
         NCAA: N 1:31.73  2/14/2023 Virginia
                          G Walsh, A Walsh, A Cuomo, K Douglass
         Meet: M 1:32.16  3/16/2022 Virginia
                          G Walsh, A Wenger, A Cuomo, K Douglass
     American: A 1:31.73  2/14/2023 Virginia
                          G Walsh, A Walsh, A Cuomo, K Douglass
      US Open: O 1:31.73  2/14/2023 Virginia
                          G Walsh, A Walsh, A Cuomo, K Douglass
         Pool: P 1:33.91  11/22/2019Virginia
                          C Gmelich, A Wenger, K Douglass, M Hill
    School                                 Seed     Finals Points 
  1 Virginia                            1:31.73    1:31.51N  40  
     1) Walsh, Gretchen SO            2) r:0.20 Walsh, Alex JR        
     3) r:0.01 Cuomo, Lexi SR         4) r:0.26 Douglass, Kate SR     
    r:+0.71  22.77        49.07 (26.30)
        1:11.17 (22.10)     1:31.51 (20.34)
  2 NC State                            1:33.02    1:32.42P  34  
     1) Berkoff, Katharine SR         2) r:0.22 MacCausland, Hether SR
     3) r:0.13 Alons, Kylee 5Y        4) r:0.22 Arens, Abby JR        
    r:+0.54  22.88        48.57 (25.69)
        1:11.16 (22.59)     1:32.42 (21.26)
  3 Texas                               1:33.70    1:33.22P  32  
     1) Bray, Olivia JR               2) r:0.16 Elendt, Anna JR       
     3) r:0.16 Sticklen, Emma JR      4) r:0.31 Cooper, Grace JR      
    r:+0.98  23.72        49.26 (25.54)
        1:11.58 (22.32)     1:33.22 (21.64)
  4 Ohio St                             1:33.95    1:33.93   30  
     1) Funderburke, Nyah SO          2) Bach, Hannah SR              
     3) Zenick, Katherine JR          4) r:0.20 Ivan, Teresa SO       
    r:+0.76  23.83        50.05 (26.22)
        1:12.43 (22.38)     1:33.93 (21.50)
  5 Louisville                          1:34.23    1:34.37   28  
     1) Hay, Abby SR                  2) r:0.03 Viberg, Cecilia FR    
     3) r:0.43 Regenauer, Chriiana SR 4) r:0.13 Albiero, Gabi JR      
    r:+0.76  23.75        50.72 (26.97)
        1:13.49 (22.77)     1:34.37 (20.88)
  6 California                          1:35.40    1:34.75   26  
     1) Stadden, Isabelle JR          2) r:0.09 Neser, Jade JR        
     3) r:0.16 Kragh, Mia SO          4) r:0.17 Davidson, Emma SR     
    r:+0.73  23.57        50.24 (26.67)
        1:13.01 (22.77)     1:34.75 (21.74)
  7 Alabama                             1:34.20    1:34.83   24  
     1) White, Rhyan 5Y               2) r:0.07 Wiseman, Avery SO     
     3) r:0.12 Jones, Emily FR        4) r:0.17 Antoniou, Kalia 5Y    
    r:+0.70  23.91        50.66 (26.75)
        1:13.54 (22.88)     1:34.83 (21.29)
  8 UNC                                 1:34.70    1:35.01   22  
     1) Pattison, Greer SO            2) r:0.15 Smith, Skyler SO      
     3) r:0.42 VanNote, Ellie SR      4) r:0.12 Countie, Grace SR     
    r:+0.62  24.19        50.56 (26.37)
        1:14.02 (23.46)     1:35.01 (20.99)
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