Sprinters Take Center Stage at Tennessee Invitational, Deliver Slew of Relay A Cuts

Alex Walsh; Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Sprinters Take Center Stage at Tennessee Invitational, Deliver Slew of Relay A Cuts

With sprinters taking starring roles on the opening night of the Tennessee Invitational, NCAA A Cuts in the relays have followed. A total of nine trips to NCAA were punched over four relays Thursday night in Knoxville.

The reason for that success is some historic speed. Jordan Crooks of Tennessee equaled the second-fastest 50 freestyle time ever put down in college swimming at 18.27. UVA’s Gretchen Walsh put a scare into the NCAA and American records in the women’s 50 free at 20.94 seconds.

Beyond those headlines, there was plenty of outstanding performances to go around in Knoxville.

Women’s 200 freestyle relay

If you’re wondering how deep Virginia is sprint-wise, consider that they had not one but two relays post A cuts in the 200 free. The win went to the nominal B squad of Kate Douglass, Maxine Parker, Lexi Cuomo and Kate Morris in 1:26.96. The A squad – the Walsh sisters, Carly Novelline and Reilly Tiltmann – were third in 1:27.30.

In between the Cavaliers’ cavalier dominance was North Carolina, which notched an A cut of 1:26.99 with the squad of Olivia Nel, Sophie Lindner, Greer Pattison and Grace Countie. The latter brought it home in 20.96 to nearly chase down UVA, just .03 shy. That time is a school record, downing a time set in both 2017 and 2019 (the latter with Countie anchoring).

Men’s 200 freestyle relay

Crooks made his move on the record boards with a time of 18.27 off the front, leading the foursome of Gui Caribe, Scott Scanlon and Aleksey Tarasenko to the win in 1:15.32. It’s an A cut. It’s a school record. It’s an Allan Jones Aquatic Center record. It’s a meet record.

Virginia was also under the meet record and nabbed an A cut in second place in 1:15.67. Matt Brownstead, Matt King, Jack Aikins and August Lamb comprised that squad.

Women’s 500 freestyle

Alex Walsh was second in prelims but got the job done in finals, pulling away early to win in 4:38.34. Second was Katie Crom of Michigan, the freshman leaving it just a little late but finishing strong in 26.10 over her final 50. She went 4:39.28.

Virginia’s Ella Nelson was third in 4:41.92. That trio plus fourth-placed Aly Breslin of Tennessee all posted times that would’ve been invited to NCAAs in 2022.

Men’s 500 freestyle

Tennessee tallied a 1-2 finish via Joaquin Vargas and Joey Tepper. Vargas made his move early and stayed away, winning in 4:15.45. Second was Tepper, the top seed in prelims, in 4:16.13. Michigan’s Eduardo Moraes grabbed the bronze medal in 4:17.81.

Women’s 200 individual medley

Tennessee’s Josephine Fuller added another win for the hosts, clocking in at 1:55.90 to defend her top seed from prelims. She was .46 quicker in the morning swim.

Virginia’s Abby Harter was second in 1:56.55, followed by Tennessee’s Sara Stolter in 1:56.96.

Men’s 200 individual medley

Gal Cohen Groumi picked up the win for Michigan, his time of 1:43.67 more than two seconds quicker than he was in prelims to upend what had been a Virginia 1-2 in prelims.

The top seed out of the morning, Kamal Muhammad, was three-quarters of a second slower at night to finish fourth. Teammate Noah Nichols, second in the morning, was slightly quicker to finish second at night in 1:44.72. Michigan’s Jared Daigle finished third.

Women’s 400 medley relay

Skip the preamble: Virginia won it. Douglass, Alex Walsh, Harter and Parker in 3:29.15. It’s an A cut.

They’ll see familiar faces at NCAAs. UT finished (an albeit distant) second in 3:30.55, with the squad of Fuller, Mona McSharry, Stolter and Brooklyn Douthwright. Countie threw down a 48.08 anchor leg as UNC booked passage to NCAAs in 3:30.84, teaming with Lindner, Skyler Smith and Ellie Vannote.

Men’s 400 medley relay

With a 44.75 fly split from Crooks, the Vols set Tennessee Invitational and pool records on the way to an A-cut time of 3:03.77. Harrison Lierz, Jarel Dillard and Caribe were also on the squad. Virginia added a B cut in second in 3:04.51.

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