15-year old Gretchen Walsh, the younger of the two swimming Walsh sisters from the Nashville Aquatic Club, has split a 46.78 on her team’s 400 medley relay anchor. The swim finished off the team’s Winter Junior Championships – West event title in 3:36.23.
The team as a whole defended their title with three of the same four swimmers. Last year, they swam a 3:36.68, with a 47.81 anchor from Gretchen Walsh. This year, Ella Nelson moved from the fly leg to the breast leg, and 17-year old Lauren Hurt back-filled that fly leg, and the team was able to knock a few tenths off.
The primary driver of that drop was Walsh’s anchor. While there isn’t a good record available of historic relay splits, our research couldn’t find anybody as young as 15 ever splitting a 46.7 in the 100 free, even on a rolling start. The flat-start National Age Group Record for 15-16s is a 47.73 done by Simone Manuel in 2013 before she’d go on to become World and Olympic Champion in the long course version of the event. If Walsh can match her over-the-water speed (no reaction time was recorded for anchors) in the individual 100 free, then she’ll probably get the official record.
Again, remembering that Walsh is only 15 and just a high school sophomore, only 3 women’s college swimmers split faster at last year’s NCAA Championships than her 46.78. 2 of those swimmers were Olympians in 2017 (Simone Manuel, Abbey Weitzeil); and another is an integral part of recent American international rosters and is headed toward an Olympic spot in 2020 (Mallory Comerford). Walsh still isn’t in their territory in long course, where her best is 54.38, but with each championship meet, she looks more-and-more like a swimmer with Tokyo in her sights in 2020 than Paris in 2024.
2018 NCAA Women’s Championships, Swimmers Who Split Sub-47