Virginia Swimmers Make Significant Impact at U.S. Nationals
The University of Virginia swimming program has become one of the country’s most recognized over the past several years, with the women’s team earning a third consecutive NCAA team championship in March. The Cavaliers have transitioned their success to long course as well, with both Alex Walsh and Kate Douglass qualifying for the 2021 Olympics and 2022 World Championships with Walsh supplying a 200 IM world title for the United States last year.
Now, Walsh’s younger sister Gretchen Walsh is set to join the U.S. team alongside her teammates for this year’s World Championships in Fukuoka, Japan. At last week’s U.S. Nationals, Douglass was one of the top performers of the meet as she won the 100 freestyle and 200 IM while placing second in the 200 breaststroke, third in the 100 butterfly and tied for third in the 50 free while Gretchen Walsh won the 50 fly, took second in the 100 fly and 50 free and was third in the 100 free and 50 back. Alex Walsh grabbed second in both IM events.
Additionally, Maxine Parker unexpectedly claimed a spot on the Worlds team with her sixth-place finish in the 100 free. Two Virginia men’s swimmers earned top-three finishes, with Jack Aikins tying for third in the 200 backstroke and Noah Nichols placing third in both the 50 and 100 breast. Emma Weber was fourth in the women’s 100 breast while Anna Keating and Weber finished fifth and sixth, respectively, in the 200 breast.
The official Virginia Swimming and Diving Instagram page posted a statistic that the team “14 swims at Nationals from 6 different college athletes that ranked them as US Swimming Top 20 All-Time Performers. This included five performances inside the Top 5!”
The top-five swims included Gretchen Walsh setting an American record in the 50 fly and becoming the fourth-quickest American ever in the 100 fly. Douglass moved to second all-time among Americans in the 100 free and 200 IM and fourth-best ever in the 200 breast. Additionally, Walsh’s 2:07.89 in the 200 IM has only been surpassed by three American swimmers ever, but it was not included in the list since she was off her best time of 2:07.13.
Other swims moving athletes into the all-time top 20 swimmers in national history included Gretchen Walsh’s 50 free (sixth), 100 free (seventh) and 50 back (10th); Douglass’ 100 fly (seventh), Nichols’ 100 breast (12th) and 50 breast (20th), Parker’s 100 free (14th), Aikins’ 200 back (15th) and Alex Walsh’s 400 IM (16th).