2022 W. NCAA Picks: Brooke Forde Versus Virginia in the 400 IM


  • When: Wednesday, March 16 – Saturday, March 19, 2021
  • Where: McAuley Aquatics Center / Georgia Tech / Atlanta, GA (Eastern Time Zone)
  • Short course yards (SCY) format
  • Defending champion: Virginia (1x) – Meet Results
  • Psych Sheets


Stanford has won the 400 IM at the NCAA Championships every year since 2016, which is largely attributed to Ella Eastin’s four-peat in the event from 2016-2019. Eastin and Katie Ledecky played hot potato with the 400 IM American record until the 2018 NCAA Championships where Eastin destroyed Ledecky’s mark

Brooke Forde took over the Stanford streak by winning the event in 2021. She was the favorite to win the event in 2020, which was ultimately canceled due to COVID-19. Stanford owns 13 NCAA titles in the 400 IM. Forde currently holds the nation’s top seed (4:00.76), but there is a trio of Virginia swimmers who could overthrow Stanford’s 400 IM legacy. 

For starters, Alex Walsh is in this race. She’s the current ACC record holder in the event, which was set at the Tennessee Invite in November 2021 (4:01.40). Walsh hasn’t competed in the 400 IM at a college championship setting, so her full ability is a little bit unknown. Based on her performances at the ACC Championships, which included electric relay performances, and sweeping her individual events (200 IM, 200 freestyle, 200 breaststroke), we could see Walsh throw down something massive.

Virginia didn’t lose any steam without Walsh in the 400 IM because Ella Nelson won the event by two-seconds (4:02.11). Nelson held the ACC Record prior to Walsh (4:02.33). Nelson’s time from the ACC Championships is her lifetime best, faster than her previous ACC record. At the 2021 NCAA Championships, Nelson was 2nd to Forde in the 400 IM (4:02.33).

Virginia’s 400 IM accolades only continue to stack up. Enter freshman Emma Weyant, the Tokyo Silver medalist in this event. She’s seeded with her converted short course meters time from the 2021 Short Course World Championships (4:02.30), which sits 5th on the psych sheets. Weyant was 2nd to Nelson at the ACC Championships (4:04.90). 

The 400 IM could be a critical moment in the team score battle as Virginia’s is predicted to have three A-finalists in the event, compared to Stanford with one. 

Weyant’s time from the Tennessee Invitational is used in the time comparison chart for short course yards consistency.

B. Forde A. Walsh E. Nelson E. Weyant
Butterfly 55.54 55.56 55.17 55.82
Backstroke 1:02.20 1:01.82 1:02.43 1:01.37
Breaststroke 1:06.96 1:08.62 1:07.45 1:10.51
Freestyle 56.06 55.30 57.06 55.99
Time 4:00.76 4:01.40 4:02.11 4:03.69

There is another Walsh(e) in the mix for the 400 IM, freshman Ellen Walshe of Tennessee. She’s also seeded with her converted meter’s time from Short Course Worlds (4:01.46). Walshe also won this event at the SEC Championships (4:01.53). Tennessee was all in to win the SEC Championships, so time will tell if Walshe can repeat her performance on the NCAA stage.  

Finishing 2nd to Walshe at the SEC Championships is Kentucky’s Lauren Poole (4:03.36), who sits 6th on the psych sheets. At the 2021 NCAA Championships, Poole finished 3rd (4:02.73). Poole has shown massive strides in the 400 IM in recent years. In 2020, she was seeded 42nd on the NCAA Championships psych sheet (4:11.58), which were ultimately canceled due to COVID-19.

Taking 2nd to Forde at the Pac-12 Championships was freshman Leah Polonsky of Cal (4:03.90), who currently sits 8th in the NCAA rankings. Last year at the NCAA Championships, Cal didn’t have any finalists in the 400 IM, so if the freshman is swimming strong like she was at the Pac-12 Championships, her 400 IM could be a big boost for the Golden Bears. 

Megan Van Berkom is having an explosive sophomore year at Minnesota. At the 2022 B1G Championships, she led the race from start to finish, winning in 4:03.45 seconds. This is a massive improvement from her 7th place finish at B1G Championships last year. She’s also dropped seven-seconds this year in the 200 IM. Her time is 7th in the NCAA rankings. 

Evie Pfeifer of Texas currently sits 22nd on the psych sheets (4:08.25), but her lifetime best is 4:04.61 seconds from the 2021 Big 12 Championships. At the 2021 NCAA Championships, Pfeifer was 5th (4:05.41). This year, she’s been a jack of all trades for Texas and could produce something special for her final 400 IM at NCAA Championships. She will have to be pretty close to her lifetime best in the morning to secure a lane at night. 

Michigan’s Kathryn Ackerman was 7th at the NCAA Championships last year as a freshman (4:06.95),  which was a big drop from the 4:08.37 she posted at the 2021 B1G Championships to finish 4th. This year, Ackerman was 4th at the B1G Championships (4:07.46). If she can replicate her performance from last year, she could secure herself a spot in the A-final, but the field this year might be too stacked even with a repeat of her time drop from last season.

Also returning to the 400 IM this season is Katie Trace of Ohio State. She is 16th on the psych sheet (4:06.79) with her time from the B1G Championships where she finished 3rd. Trace had monster drops throughout championships last year. At the 2021 B1G Championships, Trace was seeded with a 4:18.72 and then posted 4:11.91 in prelims to earn a spot in the A-final where she finished 2nd (4:07.90). At the 2021 NCAA Championships, Trace was 6th (4:06.49). In 2019, Trace was 14th at the NCAA Championships as a sophomore (4:08.20). 

Dark Horse–Kristen Romano, Ohio State: 5th-Year Romano sits 10th on the psych sheets with a 4:05.28. She posted that time at the 2022 B1G Championships where she was 2nd to Van Berkom. Romano was the 2021 B1G Champion in this event (4:06.75). At the NCAA Championships last year, Romano won the B-final, finishing 9th (4:04.28). However, had she posted that time in the A-final, she would have finished 4th. 

Swimmer School Season Best Lifetime Best
1. Alex Walsh Virginia 4:01.40 4:01.40
2. Brooke Forde Stanford 4:00.76 3:59.26
3. Ella Nelson Virginia 4:02.11 4:02.11
4. Emma Weyant Virginia 4:02.30* 4:03.69
5. Leah Polonsky California 4:03.90 4:03.90
6. Lauren Poole Kentucky 4:03.36 4:02.73
7. Ellen Walshe Tennessee 4:01.46* 4:01.53
8. Megan Van Berkom Minnesota 4:03.45 4:03.45

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There's no doubt that he's tightening up
2 years ago

Kinda amazing that the field has two Olympic silver medallists in the IMs yet Eastin’s record is still so far out of reach that they would do well to come within 4 or 5 seconds of it

2 years ago

How many have been under 4 in history?

Reply to  JimSwim22
2 years ago

Just off the top of my head…Hosszu, Leverenz, Ledecky, Eastin, Dirado, Biesel, Forde.

Reply to  Ervin
2 years ago

Pickrem and Margalis too

Reply to  CanSwim13
2 years ago

Madisyn Cox

Last edited 2 years ago by Swammer2009
Miranda N.
2 years ago

It is funny how good Alex’s freestyle has gotten. She use to really not have that final leg, and now she has developed it so well, it’s astonishing. Alex W. for the win in the 200/400 IM, and definitely top 3 in 200 Fly.

Reply to  Miranda N.
2 years ago

She is the one I expect to crack 4:00 pretty easily

2 years ago

That 3:54 is so fast!

2 years ago

The other Walshe should be competitive for a top 3 spot.

HOO love
2 years ago

UVA – home to the beginnings of a new 400 IM legacy (or should I just say IM legacy in general as we have great 2IM talent too)

Reply to  HOO love
2 years ago

I’m impressed with what UVA is doing as well but there are still a few programs that have more 400 IM history than what UVA currently has. Emma’s development at UVA is still to be seen per her times this season so far

2 years ago

1. Alex Walsh 3:58.28
2. Brooke Forde 3:59.76
3. Ella Nelson 4:01.24
4. Emma Weyant 4:02.11

HOO love
2 years ago