Tennessee Invitational: Gretchen Walsh, Charlie Hawke Scorch 200 Freestyle on Day Two

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Tennessee Invitational: Gretchen Walsh, Charlie Hawke Scorch 200 Freestyle on Day Two

One day after University of Virginia junior Gretchen Walsh achieved an American-record setting and NCAA-record tying swim in the 50 freestyle, Walsh was back in action racing the 200 free on day two while also taking part in the Cavaliers’ 200 medley relay. As Walsh won a strong race with Aimee Canny and older sister Alex Walsh, she was one of five individuals to achieve the top times in the country so far this season in their events.

Two of the other high-achievers were Walsh’s Cavaliers teammates, with Ella Nelson rocking the women’s 400 IM and Noah Nichols beating the field comfortably in the men’s 100 breaststroke, while Alabama’s Charlie Hawke (200 free) and Tennessee’s Mona McSharry (100 breast) also getting in on the fun.

Women’s 200 Medley Relay

The University of Virginia women dominated the opening event of the night, with Gretchen WalshJasmine NocentiniAlex Walsh and Aimee Canny combining for a time of 1:33.69. That was well off the American and NCAA records of 1:31.51 set by the Walsh sisters plus Lexi Cuomo and Kate Douglass at last year’s NCAA Championships, but it is the fastest time in the country this season, a half-second clear of the 1:34.14 the University of Texas clocked Wednesday evening.

And with Alex Walsh shifting to butterfly this season following those high-profile departures, Nocentini blasted a 26.06 split that is quicker than Walsh’s 26.30 from last year’s NCAAs. In fact, only two swimmers, Texas’ Anna Elendt, NC State’s Heather MacCausland and Tennessee’s Mona McSharry, beat that time at the national meet last year.

Tennessee’s team of Josephine Fuller, McSharry, Sara Stotler and Jasmine Rumley took second in 1:36.79, with McSharry splitting 26.14 on breaststroke. Virginia’s B team took third with Reilly TiltmannZoe SkirbollCarly Novelline and Maxine Parker finishing in 1:37.97.

Men’s 200 Medley Relay

The Tennessee men’s flying finish helped secure a medley relay win. Harrison Lierz and Flynn Crisci gave way to the supreme sprinting duo of Jordan Crooks and Gui Caribe, with Crooks splitting 19.64 on fly and Caribe coming home in 18.62. That allowed Tennessee to take the win in 1:23.14, about eight tenths clear of Virginia’s 1:23.96. The Cavaliers’ had a half-second lead at the halfway point thanks to the efforts of Matt Brownstead and Noah Nichols, but Tim Connery and August Lamb could not keep pace with the Volunteers’ back half.

Alabama’s team of Tommy HagarTrey SheilsBernardo De Almeida and Tim Korstanje placed third in 1:25.78.

Women’s 100 Butterfly

None of Virginia’s roster of stars raced in the 100 fly, so freshman Maggie Schalow took advantage, pulling away from the field to earn the win in 52.31, with Arkansas’ Maddy Hartley (52.74) and Virginia’s Abby Harter (52.90) rounding out the top three. Harter came in just ahead of Tennessee’s Sara Stotler (52.92), Alabama’s Kailyn Winter (52.97) and Virginia’s Carly Novelline (52.98).

Men’s 100 Butterfly

There was no stopping Jordan Crooks in the 100 fly as he blasted a time of 45.30 to beat the field by more than eight tenths. Crooks owns a best time of 44.04, a mark from last season that ranks him in a tie for eighth all-time in the event. Crooks ended up fifth in the 100 fly at last year’s NCAA Championships.

Alabama’s Bernardo De Almeida placed second in 46.12, with Tennessee’s Gui Caribe (46.58) and Micah Chambers (46.75) placing third and fourth, respectively.

Women’s 400 IM

Through her four years at the University of Virginia, Ella Nelson has been one of the most consistent 400 IMers in the country. The only swimmers to ever beat her in the event at the NCAA Championships are Olympic medalists. After her freshman year national meet was cancelled, Nelson placed second to Brooke Forde in 2021, third behind Alex Walsh and Forde in 2022 and second behind Walsh last year, her time of 3:59.33 ranking her No. 14 all-time in the event.

Nelson, back for a fifth year at UVA, was unchallenged in the event Thursday evening, clocking a time of 4:03.61 to move atop the early-season national rankings by almost two seconds. Nelson led a 1-2-3 finish for the Cavaliers, with Ella Bathurst touching in 4:10.46 and Sophia Wilson in 4:13.81.

Men’s 400 IM

After the Virginia women swept the 400 IM, the Tennessee men pulled off the same result, with Landon Driggers leading the way with his time of 3:43.96. He surpassed teammate Gus Rothrock by almost two seconds, with Rothrock edging out Aidan Crisci, 3:45.82 to 3:46.00.

Women’s 200 Freestyle

Sisters Alex Walsh and Gretchen Walsh don’t usually race each other in individual events, with Alex specializing in the medley events and 200-yard races while Gretchen is a pure sprinter. But Thursday, they met in the 200 free, a race that Gretchen scarcely races even for relay duty by virtue of her importance to the other UVA relays. But the younger sister shined in this matchup, blasting a time that left as the 11th-fastest performer ever in the event while beating the winning time from the last three NCAA Championships.

Gretchen swam a time of 1:41.32, more than a second ahead of the 1:42.36 that Taylor Ruck swam in winning the 2023 national title in the event. Gretchen left her older sister more than two seconds behind, and it was actually another Virginia swimmer, Aimee Canny, who came in second at 1:42.93. Canny, third at last year’s NCAA Championships at 1:42.50, was only four tenths off her top mark. Alex Walsh was third in 1:43.43, with UVA swimmers also placing fourth through sixth with Cavan Gormsen (1:45.07), Sophia Knapp (1:45.45) and Reilly Tiltmann (1:46.21).

Men’s 200 Freestyle

The top two men’s 200 free performances in the country now belong to a pair of a pair of Alabama swimmers, with both men hitting early-season 1:31s after no one had previously broken 1:33 all season. Coming in first was Charlie Hawke, a B-finalist at last year’s national meet. Hawke swam a time of 1:31.30, which would have tied for fourth at last year’s NCAAs. Hawke was just a tenth off his best time of 1:31.20 which ranks tied for 17th all-time.

Also performing admirably was Kaique Alves, another Crimson Tide swimmer, who broke 1:32 for the first time with his 1:31.97. Finishing well back in third was Virginia’s Sebastian Sergile (1:34.14).

Women’s 100 Breaststroke

For the third consecutive race, the top time in the country was overtaken, this time as Mona McSharry blasted a time of 56.87 in the 100 breast. McSharry, fresh off a fifth-place finish in the 100-meter breast for Ireland at this summer’s World Championships, crushed the previous top mark of 57.35 established last month by USC’s Kaitlyn Dobler. McSharry also comfortably surpassed the 57.03 in which Lydia Jacoby won last year’s national title (a race where McSharry placed second).

Meanwhile, Virginia’s Emma Weber finished well back in second place at 59.02, just ahead of Tennessee’s Emelie Fast (59.07).

Men’s 100 Breaststroke

It was another nation-leading mark in the men’s 100 breast, although Noah Nichols does not have much breathing room as many top rivals get ready to race the event at their midseason meets Friday. But Nichols had plenty of advantage on the field, dominating with a time of 51.67. Previously, only Louisville’s Denis Petrashov and Arizona State’s Leon Marchand had gone sub-52 this season. Alabama’s Trey Sheils (52.74) and Tennessee’s Flynn Crisci (52.95) came in behind Nichols.

Women’s 100 Backstroke

A clash between two teammates and individual medalists from the Pan American Games went to Tennessee’s Josephine Fuller over Virginia’s Reilly Tiltmann. Fuller, the Pan Ams gold medalist in the 100-meter back, secured the win in 52.11, with Tiltmann, fresh off a 200-meter back silver in Santiago, closing hard to take second in 52.34. Third went to Alabama’s Ella Menear in 52.67.

Notably, NCAA champion and record holder Gretchen Walsh skipped the event after clocking an absurd time of 48.26 in March.

Men’s 100 Backstroke

Tennessee won a third individual men’s event in five tries as Harrison Lierz cruised to the 100 back win by more than a second. Lierz clocked 45.71 while the Virginia duo of Will Thompson (46.75) and Matt Brownstead (47.07) took second and third, respectively.

Women’s 800 Freestyle Relay

With Virginia sitting out the 800 free relay entirely, the Tennessee A team of Brooklyn DouthwrightJulia BurroughsSara Stotler and Kate McCarville pulled away to win this relay in 7:10.17. The Arkansas group of Maddy HartleyRebecca SimpsonAdela Vavrinova and Betsy Wizard placed second in 7:14.71, with the Volunteers’ B team (Laura LittlejohnAbby SamanskyLauren Wetherell and Josephine Fuller) third in 7:16.43.

Men’s 800 Freestyle Relay

It was another win for the Tennessee men to close out the night, this time by six-and-a-half seconds, as fans at the Allan Jones Aquatic Center got to see Jordan Crooks, best known for his sprinting abilities including his status as the No. 2 performer in history in the 50 free, take a rare shot at the 200 free. Crooks held on nicely to post a time of 1:32.07, a time good enough to make the A-final at most years’ NCAA Championships. He was followed by teammates Gui CaribeJoaquin Vargas and Rafael Ponce De Leon on the way to a time of 6:19.77.

Kentucky’s Ryan MeraniVictor Martin Roig, Max Berg and Zane Rosely came in second at 6:26.36, with Tennessee’s B team of Jack StelterWill JacksonJake Narvid and Nokoli Blackman taking third in 6:30.43.


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