U.S. Olympic Trials, Day 4 Notes: Virginia Women Poised for Huge Night at Trials

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Alex Walsh before competing in the 200 IM at Olympic Trials -- Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

U.S. Olympic Trials, Day 4 Notes: Virginia Women Poised for Huge Night at Trials

In the first four year’s of Todd DeSorbo’s tenure as head coach at Virginia, the Cavaliers have skyrocketed up the national rankings, particularly on the women’s side. After finishing 12th at the NCAA championships the year before DeSorbo came, Virginia placed ninth and sixth in his first two years before the 2020 meet was cancelled. But in 2021, the team dominated the meet, winning the team championship by 137 points.

Now, the Virginia powerhouse has arrived on the international level. On day one, incoming freshman Emma Weyant shocked Melanie Margalis and Hali Flickinger to win the women’s 400 IM. In day two’s 400 free final, pre-DeSorbo Virginia star Leah Smith was favored to make her second Olympic team, but instead, Paige Madden pulled away from Smith and captured second place. Madden just completed her senior season in Charlottesville, and she steadily improved each year until she captured NCAA titles in the 200, 500 and 1650-yard freestyle this spring.

To follow that up, Wednesday night’s finals could be a banner session for Virginia, with three swimmers in position to possibly qualify for Tokyo. Madden is the second seed in the women’s 200 free after swimming a best time of 1:56.44 in the semifinals. Even should she fall from that position, the top six will likely earn spots on the 800 free relay for Tokyo.

And in the women’s 200 IM finals, Virginia has rising sophomore Alex Walsh as the top seed and rising junior Kate Douglass seeded second. Walsh, the NCAA champion in the 200-yard IM this year, swam a 2:08.87 in Tuesday’s semifinals, the third-fastest time in the world for 2021. She became the 19th-fastest performer in history and sixth-fast American, behind only Ariana Kukors, Kathleen Baker, Madisyn Cox, Melanie Margalis and Maya DiRado. Walsh had been a rising star for years, but she is now the favorite to win the event.

Douglass, meanwhile, swam a 2:09.99 to take the second seed, almost a second faster than what had been her best time prior to Tuesday (2:10.74). Douglass has already swam a remarkable meet, including an amazing 56.56 in the 100 fly that was substantially faster than her previous best, but that ended up only being good enough for third as teenagers Torri Huske and Claire Curzan took the spots for Tokyo.

“Getting third sucks to be so close to making the team, but that was a best time by more than a half-second, so that was a really awesome swim,” Douglass said. “My reaction was more, ‘Wow, that was really awesome, I could still make the team in something,’ than a disappointment.”

After this finals session, the Cavaliers will continue to be a force the rest of the meet. Douglass will also be a factor for a relay spot in the 100 free, as well incoming freshman Gretchen Walsh, Alex’s younger sister.

The Greatest Somerset Morning

It was a fun morning to be a fan of the Greater Somerset County YMCA in Basking Ridge, N.J. First, Jack Alexy smashed his best time in the 100 free by more than a half second with a 48.61. Alexy broke a Caeleb Dressel National Age Group record while qualifying for the semifinals in ninth place. Two events later, teammate Matt Fallon dropped more than a second in the 200 breast to qualify first for the semifinals, beating a heat that included veterans Nic Fink, Kevin Cordes and Cody Miller. Fallon’s time of 2:10.13 was 1.2 seconds faster than his previous lifetime best. Fallon and Fink are familiar faces to each other since both attended the Pingry School in New Jersey. The two 18-year-old standouts are coached by Lou Petto.

Alexy, a Cal-commit, and Fallon, who will attend Penn in the fall, each will have to drop significant time to sustain their positions in the semifinals and even more to qualify for the Olympic team, but that is undoubtedly a special morning for two teammates and their club.

“Too Fast to Freeze”

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Lydia Jacoby after finishing second in the 100 breast at Olympic Trials — Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Look closely at the cap Lydia Jacoby wore in the 100 breast on Tuesday night, when she became the first-ever swimmer from Alaska to qualify for an Olympic swim team. The cap says, “Too Fast to Freeze.”

Considering the average temperature in Jacoby’s hometown in Seward does not clear 40 degrees five months per year, she better be.

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