2022 W. NCAA Previews: Alex Walsh Eyeing 2-Peat In 200 IM

2022 NCAA Division I Women’s Swimming And Diving Championships

  • March 16-19, 2022
  • Mcauley Aquatic Center, Georgia Tech, Atlanta, Georgia
  • Short Course Yards (25 yards), Prelims/Finals
  • Official Psych Sheets

Virginia’s Alex Walsh first emerged onto the scene in the 200 IM her freshman year when she upset her teammate Kate Douglass, the favorite in the event, at the 2021 ACC Championships. In that race, she swam a massive lifetime best of 1:51.53, shaving over two seconds off of her previous best time of 1:53.69 from all the way back in 2018. 

Walsh later went on to win the 200 IM title at the 2021 NCAA Championships, and followed it up with a silver medal in the long course version of the event at the Tokyo Olympics last summer. This season, she defended her ACC title in the event and is primed to defend her national one as well. She enters NCAAs seeded first with a 1:52.38, although Stanford’s Torri Huske and Tennessee’s Ellen Walshe will not be far behind her.

Huske broke 1:53 for the first time mid-season with a 1:52.82 swim, and then reset her personal best at conferences to take the Pac-12 title in the event with a time of 1:52.42. She is currently seeded second behind Walsh. Walshe, on the other hand, went from coming into the season with no yards experience to winning an SEC title in the event. Her time of 1:52.97 ranks her as the third seed.

As the top three seeds are only seeded a few tenths away from each other, it would be interesting to see how the three of them would pace their IM.

Alex Walsh Torri Huske Ellen Walshe
Fly 24.43 (3) 23.55 (1) 24.07 (2)
Back 28.15/52.58 (3) 27.79/51.34 (1) 27.98/52.05 (2)
Breast 32.57/1:15.15 (2) 33.23/1:14.57 (1) 33.39/1:15.44 (3)
Free 27.23/1:52:38 (1)  27.85/1:52.42 (2) 27.53/1:52.97 (3)

A hypothetical race scenario based on previous splits would look like this:

Huske, who is primarily a 100 flyer, goes out with about a second lead over everyone in her best stroke, opening with a wide lead the same way that she does in a butterfly race. She maintains her lead in the backstroke, but the breaststroke is where Walsh makes her move. There, she comes back from a one-second deficit and splits nearly a second faster than the rest of the field, cutting Huske’s lead by half. This isn’t surprising, considering that Walsh is the only one out of the three who swims breaststroke individually, being the second-fastest woman in the 200 breast. Meanwhile, in perhaps her weakest stroke out of the four, Walshe fades into third. Finally, Walsh goes the fastest freestyle time out of the three, while Huske goes the slowest, causing her to lose to Walsh by 0.04 seconds.

Although Walsh isn’t exactly known for her closing speed, her back half is actually the reason why she’s faster than her competitors in this particular situation. In addition, even though butterfly was her “weak” leg compared to Huske and Walshe, her recent abilities in the 200 fly prove that she is capable in the stroke. However, based on her ability to go 1:51s, it is evident that she can go faster than her seed time–hence why it’s hard not to pick her as the winner. But if Huske can just hold on for a little longer at the end of the race, she could potentially threaten the favorite. On the other hand, if Walshe maintains her upward trajectory from this season, she could also drop a considerable amount of time and should not be counted out.

Below the top three seeds, the rest of the field in the 200 IM is also significantly faster than last year. While all top eight seeds are under 1:55 this year, last year, only five women were able to go under that time at NCAAs. 

Cal’s Izzy Ivey comes in as the fourth seed with a 1:53.54 and finished in second behind Huske at Pac-12s. She did not swim the event last year, opting for the 100 free/100 fly/100 back instead, but finished ninth in the event at 2019 NCAAs with a time of 1:53.87 which was a personal best for her up until this year. The 2019 race was a very fast field with superstars like Beata Nelson, Sydney Pickrem, and Ella Eastin all going under 1:52, so Ivey’s time in a less crowded race this year would definitely make finals. Her time this year would have also placed third in last year’s race.

Ivey’s teammate Alicia Wilson took third last year with a 1:54.51, but finished seventh in the event at Pac-12s this year and is seeded 32nd with a 1:56.41, making it unclear if she will return to her old form come time for NCAAs.

Seeded behind Ivey in fifth is Georgia’s Zoie Hartman, who took second at last year’s meet with a time of 1:53.34 and has been as fast as 1:53.05. She also finished second behind Walshe at this year’s SEC meet, going a 1:53.79. Although she might not make the podium this year, her consistency makes her a lock for A-finals.

Two women who have dropped considerable time this season are Minnesota’s Megan Van Berkom and Duke’s Sarah Foley

Last year, Van Berkom finished 35th at Big Tens with a time of 2:02.44 and did not qualify for NCAAs in the event. However, she made a jump to a 1:56.48 at the Minnesota Invite, and improved her personal best to 1:54.92 to finish second at Big Tens this year. Her time makes her the eighth seed in the field. To drop eight seconds in one season is insane, and it’s only fair that we anticipate more from her at NCAAs.

Foley has made strides in her 200 IM as well. Last year, she finished tenth at ACCs with a best time of 1:57.03, but then went over a second slower at NCAAs, placing 38th with a 1:58.64. She improved her time to 1:54.47 this year to finish second behind Walsh at ACCs, and is seeded seventh. If she does not have a repeat of last year, she could very well make the A-final this year.

2022 Big Ten Champion, Ohio State’s Kristen Romano, is also a name to watch. Like Foley, Romano also went significantly slower at conferences compared to NCAAs last year, going from 1:54.17 to 1:56.01. However, her time was still good for 8th at the meet last year. She is currently seeded sixth with a 1:54.43 from conferences, and should be able to make A-finals if she stays within the 1:54 range.

Virginia’s Ella Nelson and Wisconsin’s Phoebe Bacon are both seeded outside of the top 8, but could potentially sneak their way into finals this year. Bacon is seeded 17th with a 1:55.64, but has been as fast as 1:54.51 from when she placed fourth at 2021 NCAAs. Nelson, who is stronger in the 400 IM, is seeded 11th with her ACCs time of 1:55.18. However, she made a jump from 1:55.32 at ACCs to 1:54.74 for a fifth-place finish at NCAAS last year, meaning that she will likely by for a finalist spot this year as well. 

This year’s top time belongs in the event, however, belongs to a woman who is not even swimming in it. Kate Douglass’s 1:52.21 from mid-season is faster than any woman entered in this event has gone this year, but she chose to stick with the sprints, swimming the 50 free instead on day two. Brooke Forde also chose to go with the 500 free instead of the 200 IM, although she has the seventh fastest time in the nation this year, a 1:54.23 from Pac-12.

TOP 8 PICKS:

Place Swimmer Season Best Lifetime Best
1 Alex Walsh 1:52.38 1:51.53
2 Torri Huske 1:52.42 1:52.42
3 Ellen Walshe 1:52.97 1:52.97
4 Zoie Hartman 1:53.79 1:53.05
5 Izzy Ivey 1:53.54 1:53.54
6 Ella Nelson 1:55.18 1;54.74
7 Phoebe Bacon 1:55.64 1:54.51
8 Megan Van Berkom 1:54.92 1:52.92

Dark Horse: Calypso Sheridan, USC, Fifth Year- Right before COVID-19 cancelled NCAAs in 2020, Sheridan swam a 1:53.10 best time at Big Tens as a Northwestern swimmer. She didn’t compete in the 2020-21 season, and transferred to USC to alongside former Northwestern and USC head coach Jeremy Kipp, who also made the same move. This year, she is seeded 13th with a time of 1:55.27, and it will be interesting to see how her 200 IM will go at NCAAs, especially considering that the coach she transferred with recently resigned.

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Swimfan
3 months ago

She emerged on the scene? 153 in high school (and a long course time that makes the olympics) she was pretty much already on the scene.

Say's Phoebe
Reply to  Swimfan
3 months ago

Right. 1:54 her sophomore year in high school, 1:53.6 in December of her junior year, 2:09.01 LC in December 2019, 2:10.38 LC at the January pro meet in Knoxville.

Walsh was ready to make the olympic team in 2020 if the Olympics had not been postponed.

Marklewis
3 months ago

Torri will make it interesting because her first 100 is so fast. Alex will be close behind.

At the Olympic Trials then didn’t get to swim next to each other, but maybe this year at NCAAs they will be racing side by side.

A good 200 IM battle head-to-head is a treat to watch.

Melanie
3 months ago

1. Alex Walsh 1:51.04
2. Torri Huske 1:51.56
3. Isabel Ivey 1:52.55
Dark Horse: Walshe

Swammer2009
3 months ago

Would love to see Izzy Ivey with a PB and top 3 finish. Competitive field but I think if she’s feeling good she can pull it off.

SamH
3 months ago

“2-peat” or in other words, repeat.

jeff
3 months ago

with how fast her 200s of all 4 strokes have gotten (big PBS in free fly and breast) since last year NCAAs, I think we’re in for something special

ACC
3 months ago

I feel like we already had a word for “2-peat”.

Dudeman
Reply to  ACC
3 months ago

That sounds like you made it up

iLikePsych
Reply to  ACC
3 months ago

Oh and next you’re gonna tell me that we should use the word “win”(?) instead of 1-peat???

RCP
Reply to  iLikePsych
3 months ago

Or just plan ole “peat.” As in: Pete peat-ed the 100 free. Say that three times fast.

About Yanyan Li

Yanyan Li

Yanyan is from Madison, New Jersey and spent the majority of her life there. Although she wasn't the greatest competitive swimmer, she learned more about the sport of swimming through scoring countless dual meets, being a timer, and keeping track of her teammates' best times for three years as a …

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