2023 Tennessee Invitational: Day 2 Prelims Live Recap

by Riley Overend 10

November 16th, 2023 ACC, College, News, SEC


Thursday Prelims Heat Sheet

After an American Record lit the pool up in Wednesday’s finals session, the pool will be spun back to long course on Thursday morning for a loaded prelims session that includes the 100 fly, 400 IM, 200 free, 100 breast, and 100 back, all in long course.

Both Gretchen Walsh, who had that record-setting 50 free, and her older sister Alex Walsh will race in the 200 free on Thursday morning. Neither are racing the 100 back, where in yards Gretchen is the fastest to do it and Alex is a National Age Group Record holder. Similarly, Alex Walsh won’t swim the 400 IM, where she is the two-time defending NCAA Champion. This rides Virginia’s trend of picking different mid-season races than championship races (Alex swam the 100 breast at this meet last year, for example).

They’re not the top seeds though — that honor belongs to teammate Aimee Canny, who swam a time that would have won last year’s NCAA title in the 500 free on Wednesday while racing the event for the first time.

On the men’s side, Tennessee is seeded to dominate the racing, with top seeds in all but one event (Noah Nichols, 100 breast). That doesn’t include Gui Caribe and Jordan Crooks, who are both swimming the 100 fly.

Women’s scores after day 1:

  1. Virginia – 350
  2. Tennessee – 288
  3. Alabama – 202
  4. Kentucky – 117
  5. Arkansas – 110
  6. North Carolina (diving) – 26
  7. Virginia Tech (diving) – 7
  8. Duke (diving) – 5
  9. South Carolina (diving) – 1

Men’s scores after day 1:

  1. Tennessee – 346
  2. Virginia – 269
  3. Alabama – 227
  4. Kentucky – 164
  5. Duke (diving) – 34
  6. South Carolina (diving) – 25
  7. North Carolina (diving) – 11
  8. Virginia Tech (diving) – 6

Women’s 100-Meter Fly – Prelims

  • Converted NCAA ‘A’ Standard: 57.15
  • Converted 2023 NCAA Invite Time: 58.85
  • U.S. Olympic Trials Standard: 1:00.19

Top 8:

  1. Abby Harter, Virginia – 1:00.23
  2. Sara Stotler, Tennessee – 1:00.60
  3. Gaby van Brunt, Alabama – 1:00.82
  4. Maddy Hartley, Arkansas – 1:00.85
  5. Kailyn Winter, Alabama – 1:01.01
  6. Tess Howley, Virginia – 1:01.07
  7. Maggie Schalow, Virginia – 1:01.10
  8. Betsy Wizard, Arkansas – 1:01.34

No NCAA qualifiers or Olympic Trials cuts in the first race of the day on Thursday morning, with Virginia’s Abby Harter leading the field in 1:00.23. Harter, who is better in the 200 fly than the 100 fly, has shown a concerted early-season focus on speed this year.

The most important swim out of the heats was probably Arkansas’ Maddy Hartley, who was 4th in 1:00.85. That’s about half-a-second shy of her personal best, but it continues an electric start to the season for her in a year where they really need someone to step up and make the relays work after the graduation of Kobie Melton.

US National Teamer Tess Howley qualified 6th in 1:01.07 for Virginia. Her best is 58.99.

Men’s 100-Meter Fly – Prelims

  • Converted NCAA ‘A’ Standard: 50.84
  • Converted 2023 NCAA Invite Time: 51.90
  • U.S. Olympic Trials Standard: 53.59

Top 8:

  1. Martin Espernberger, Tennessee – 52.86
  2. Bernardo de Almeida, Alabama – 53.46
  3. Bjoern Kammann, Tennessee – 53.76
  4. Jordan Crooks, Tennessee – 54.04
  5. Micah Chambers, Tennessee – 54.23
  6. Kamal Muhammad, Virginia – 54.43
  7. Zarek Wilson, Alabama – 54.50
  8. Ryan Merani, Kentucky – 54.64

The top four in the men’s 100 fly long course prelims are all internationals, led by Tennessee’s Martin Espernberger, who represents Austria internationally.

That swim knocks two-tenths of a second off the best time he did last May. He’s still chasing the Olympic “B” standard of 51.93.

While Brazilian Bernardo de Almeida from Alabama wasn’t a best time for the 2nd seed (53.46), his countrymate Gui Caribe from Tennessee was for the 9th seed. He swam 54.66 in prelims, bettering his previous best of 55.40 from 2021.

The Tennessee men went 1-3-4-5 in this race, including a best time of 54.04 from Jordan Crooks, who was 5th in the yards version at NCAAs last year. He has been better in long course than short course so far this week, showing a shift in focus for the collegiate record holder who has yet to really break out in the 50 meter pool. He swam a 21.95 in the 50 free prelims, .22 away from his best, but was only 18.40 in the yards finals, .47 away from his best.

Women’s 400-Meter IM – Prelims

  • Converted NCAA ‘A’ Standard: 4:38.42
  • Converted 2023 NCAA Invite Time: 4:43.70
  • U.S. Olympic Trials Standard: 4:49.89

Top 8:

  1. Ella Nelson, Virginia – 4:47.52
  2. Caroline Benda, Kentucky – 4:48.39
  3. Sophia Wilson, Virginia – 4:49.39
  4. Ella Bathurst, Virginia – 4:51.53
  5. Sydney Sanders, Alabama – 4:57.98
  6. Madilyn McGlothen, Kentucky – 5:00.92
  7. Laurel Blase, Alabama – 5:02.28
  8. Anna Havens Rice, Kentucky – 5:02.76

Even without NCAA champion Alex Walsh contesting the women’s 400-meter IM, Virginia still dominated this event by taking three out of the top four spots this morning. Fifth-year Ella Nelson led the way for UVA, posting a 4:47.52 that sits a couple seconds off her personal-best 4:45.16 from May. At last season’s NCAA Championships, she placed 2nd in the 400-yard IM (3:59.54) behind Walsh (3:57.24).

Kentucky junior Caroline Benda prevented a UVA podium sweep by claiming 2nd place in a lifetime best of 4:48.39. The North Baltimore Aquatic Center (NBAC) product dropped nearly three seconds off her previous-best 4:51.10 from U.S. Nationals this summer, in the process earning her first 2024 U.S. Olympic Trials cut in the event.

UVA senior Sophia Wilson was the only other swimmer sub-4:50 in prelims this morning, placing 3rd in 4:49.39. The Brit has been as fast as 4:47.32 at U.S. Nationals in 2022. Wilson placed 6th in the 400-yard IM at the 2023 ACC Championships (4:11.89).

UVA junior Ella Bathurst registered a massive time drop en route to 4th place. She reached the wall in 4:51.53, shaving almost four seconds off her entry time of 4:55.51. Bathurst placed 5th in the 400 IM at ACCs last season.

Men’s 400-Meter IM – Prelims

  • Converted NCAA ‘A’ Standard: 4:10.17
  • Converted 2023 NCAA Invite Time: 4:14.85
  • U.S. Olympic Trials Standard: 4:25.19

Top 8:

  1. Landon Driggers, Tennessee – 4:19.84
  2. Colin Bitz, Virginia – 4:23.82
  3. Joey Tepper, Tennessee – 4:23.89
  4. Matt Styczen, Virginia – 4:26.01
  5. Ryan Merani, Kentucky – 4:28.13
  6. Gus Rothrock, Tennessee – 4:29.24
  7. Tommy Hagar, Alabama – 4:29.63
  8. Matthew Heilman, Virginia – 4:34.70

Tennessee junior Landon Driggers dominated the men’s 400-meter IM by nearly four full seconds, earning the top time in 4:19.84. Over the summer, the former Division II standout placed 10th at U.S. Nationals in 4:18.59 before blazing a personal-best 4:16.54 for 2nd place at the TYR Pro Championships a month later.

Driggers’ lifetime best from July was within a second of making the 2023-24 U.S. National team this year. He placed 5th at SECs in the yards version of the 400 IM last season.

Rounding out the podium were Virginia junior Colin Bitz (4:23.82) and Tennessee senior Joey Tepper (4:23.89), who were separated by less than a tenth of a second in their battle for 2nd place. Bitz had a massive time drop from his previous-best 4:28.66 from 2021, while Tepper dropped even more time off his previous-best 4:29.92 from 2022.

Women’s 200-Meter Free – Prelims

  • Converted NCAA ‘A’ Standard: 1:56.33
  • Converted 2023 NCAA Invite Time: 1:59.13
  • U.S. Olympic Trials Standard: 2:00.89

Top 8:

  1. Aimee Canny, Virginia – 1:59.73
  2. Alex Walsh, Virginia – 2:00.18
  3. Gretchen Walsh, Virginia – 2:01.17
  4. Cavan Gormsen, Virginia – 2:01.85
  5. Sophia Knapp, Virginia – 2:01.97
  6. Kate McCarville, Tennessee – 2:02.09
  7. Mackenzie Brandt, Alabama – 2:03.08
  8. Reilly Tiltmann, Virginia – 2:03.39

Virginia swept the top five spots of the women’s 200-meter freestyle with their heavy hitters all in action this morning.

South African sophomore Aimee Canny triumphed in a time of 1:59.73, a couple seconds off her personal-best 1:57.82 from April. Alex Walsh finished 2nd in 2:00.18, also a couple seconds slower her lifetime best but under the 2024 U.S. Olympic Trials standard of 2:00.89.

Gretchen Walsh clocked a personal-best 2:01.17 en route to 3rd place, shaving a couple tenths off her previous-best 2:01.40 from 2018 Junior Pan Pacs. Gretchen hadn’t contested the 200 free in long course for over a year.

UVA freshman Cavan Gormsen placed 4th in 2:01.85, a few seconds off her lifetime best, while fellow distance specialist Sophia Knapp recorded a new personal-best 2:01.97 for 5th place, dropping half a second off her best time from 2022 Junior Nationals.

Tennessee junior Kate McCarville broke up the streak of Cavaliers with a 6th-place finish in 2:02.09, outdueling Alabama sophomore Mackenzie Brandt (personal-best 2:03.08) and Virginia junior Reilly Tiltmann (2:03.39).

Men’s 200-Meter Free – Prelims

  • Converted NCAA ‘A’ Standard: 1:44.85
  • Converted 2023 NCAA Invite Time: 1:46.11
  • U.S. Olympic Trials Standard: 1:49.99

Top 8:

  1. Charlie Hawke, Alabama – 1:47.65
  2. Kaique Alves, Alabama – 1:48.35
  3. Max Berg, Kentucky – 1:49.76
  4. Joaquin Vargas, Tennessee – 1:50.45
  5. Rafael Ponce De Leon, Tennessee – 1:50.84
  6. Sebastien Sergile, Virginia – 1:50.90
  7. Joey Tepper, Tennessee – 1:51.09
  8. Jack Stelter, Tennessee – 1:51.67

A pair of Alabama international students posted best times in the men’s 200 freestyle to lead a 1-2 finish for the Crimson Tide.

Australian junior Charlie Hawke led the way with a 1:47.65, four-tenths off his previous-best 1:47.25 from this year’s Australian Trials. Brazilian junior Kaique Alves followed in 1:48.35, dropping four-tenths of a second from his previous-best 1:48.75 that he posted in June.

Kentucky sophomore Max Berg was the only other swimmer sub-1:50 this morning with a 1:49.76, about a second off the Frenchman’s personal-best 1:48.37 from June. The top five finishers were all international students as Peruvian Tennessee junior Joaquin Vargas placed 4th (1:50.45) and Peruvian Tennessee senior Rafael Ponce de Leon placed 5th (1:50.84).

Tennessee senior Joey Tepper placed 7th in the 200 free (1:51.09) right after putting up a 3rd-place effort in the 400 IM.

Women’s 100-Meter Breast – Prelims

  • Converted NCAA ‘A’ Standard: 1:05.93
  • Converted 2023 NCAA Invite Time: 1:07.88
  • U.S. Olympic Trials Standard: 1:10.29

Top 8:

  1. Mona McSharry, Tennessee – 1:06.72
  2. Emma Weber, Virginia – 1:07.99
  3. Alessia Ferraguti, Arkansas – 1:08.51
  4. Ella Nelson, Virginia – 1:09.03
  5. Avery Wiseman, Alabama – 1:09.24
  6. Emelie Fast, Tennessee – 1:09.66
  7. Zoe Skirboll, Virginia – 1:09.85
  8. Diana Petkova, Alabama – 1:10.29

Tennessee senior Mona McSharry blasted a 1:06.72 in the women’s 100 breast, more than a second ahead of the field this morning. She also swam this LCM event last month vs. Louisville, clocking in at 1:07.20. The Irishwoman’s lifetime best is a 1:05.55 from the 2023 World Championships, where she ultimately placed 5th in 1:06.07.

Emma Weber earned the runner-up finish in 1:07.99, going faster than the 1:08.13 she posted at the 2023 Pan American Games last month en route to 5th place. The UVA sophomore owns a lifetime best of 1:07.39 from her 4th-place finish at U.S. Nationals this summer.

Arkansas fifth-year Alessia Ferraguti went a personal-best 1:08.51 to round out the podium, shaving more than half a second off the Italian’s previous-best 1:09.09 from April. Virginia fifth-year Ella Nelson also established a new lifetime best in her 4th-place effort, reaching the wall in 1:09.03 to drop almost a full second off her previous-best 1:09.81 from 2018.

The entire top 8 — including Alabama’s Avery Wiseman (1:09.24), Tennessee’s Emelie Fast (1:09.66), Virginia’s Zoe Skirboll (1:09.85), and Alabama’s Diana Petkova (1:10.29) — finished at or under the 2024 U.S. Olympic Trials cut of 1:10.29.

Men’s 100-Meter Breast – Prelims

  • Converted NCAA ‘A’ Standard: 59.01
  • Converted 2023 NCAA Invite Time: 59.93
  • U.S. Olympic Trials Standard: 1:02.19

Top 8:

  1. Noah Nichols, Virginia – 1:00.34
  2. Michael Deans, Alabama – 1:02.11
  3. Trey Sheils, Alabama – 1:02.70
  4. Jed Garner, Tennessee – 1:03.68
  5. Flynn Crisci, Tennessee – 1:03.74
  6. Lance Johnson, Kentucky – 1:03.87
  7. Scooter Iida, Virginia – 1:04.07
  8. Will Tenpas, Virginia – 1:04.15

Fresh off a silver medal in the 100 breast (1:00.43) at the 2023 Pan American Games in Santiago, Chile, Virginia senior Noah Nichols went even faster on Thursday morning just a few weeks later. His time of 1:00.34 was nearly two seconds ahead of the field, within a second of his personal-best 59.40 from U.S. Nationals this summer, where he placed 3rd.

Alabama senior Michael Deans registered a new lifetime best with a 1:02.11 for 3rd place as the South African shaved about a tenth off his previous-best 1:02.24 from the TYR Pro Championships this summer. Fellow Alabama swimmer Trey Sheils rounded out the podium with a 3rd-place finish in 1:02.70, within a second of his personal-best 1:01.91 from last May.

Women’s 100-Meter Back – Prelims

  • Converted NCAA ‘A’ Standard: 58.96
  • Converted 2023 NCAA Invite Time: 1:00.67
  • U.S. Olympic Trials Standard: 1:01.89

Top 8:

  1. Reilly Tiltmann, Virginia – 1:01.68
  2. Josephine Fuller, Tennessee – 1:01.94
  3. Izzy Bradley, Virginia – 1:02.04
  4. Torie Buerger, Kentucky – 1:02.14
  5. Ella Menear, Alabama – 1:02.23
  6. Tess Howley, Virginia – 1:02.59
  7. Cadence Vincent, Alabama – 1:02.61
  8. Grace Frericks, Kentucky – 1:03.00

Virginia junior Reilly Tiltmann had an exciting showdown with 2023 Pan American champion Josephine Fuller in the 100 back, with Tiltmann pulling out a tight win in 1:01.68. Fuller, a Tennessee junior, was close behind in 1:01.94, a couple seconds off her personal-best 59.67 from her Pan Ams victory.

Tiltmann was about a second slower than her personal-best 1:00.58 from U.S. Nationals, the only swimmer in prelims under the 2024 U.S. Olympic Trials cut of 1:01.89. She also placed 8th in the 200 free earlier in the session.

Virginia sophomore Izzy Bradley placed 3rd in 1:02.04, taking a couple tenths off her entry time of 1:02.28.

Men’s 100-Meter Back – Prelims

  • Converted NCAA ‘A’ Standard: 52.91
  • Converted 2023 NCAA Invite Time: 54.08
  • U.S. Olympic Trials Standard: 55.69

Top 8:

  1. Will Thompson, Virginia – 55.00
  2. Harrison Lierz, Tennessee – 55.71
  3. Matt Brownstead, Virginia – 55.93
  4. Eric Stelmar, Alabama – 56.02
  5. Tommy Hagar, Alabama – 56.19
  6. Brendan Conners, Alabama – 56.50
  7. Jack Berube, Virginia – 56.90
  8. Bjoern Kammann, Tennessee – 57.07

Virginia freshman Will Thompson threw down a huge swim to lead the 100 back. His time of 55.00 marked a new best time, crushing his previous-best 55.93 from July.

Tennessee senior Harrison Lierz also recorded a new lifetime best, getting under 56 seconds for the first time in his career. His runner-up time of 55.71 knocked a few tenths off his previous-best 56.08 from 2019.

UVA senior Matt Brownstead was the only other swimmer under 56 seconds in prelims, placing 3rd in 55.93.

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3 months ago

That’s not a PB for Hawke. He was 1:47.25 at trials this year.

3 months ago

Is Jasmine sick?

3 months ago

Fast 100 breast

Scott Bonney
Reply to  Ho4ke
3 months ago

All 8 women’s 100 breast finalists made the Olympic Trials Cut.

3 months ago

Anyone know what’s going on with Spink? Solid morning yesterday. Didn’t swim either individuals at finals and now didn’t swim either individual this morning.

Reply to  VFL
3 months ago

she had to pull out of the meet. Injury unfortunately.

Reply to  Flutterfly
3 months ago

Dang. That sucks. Hopefully nothing too serious. Thanks for letting me know!

3 months ago

The Walsh-Walsh-Canny clash in the 200 yd free will be very interesting tonight. BTW, an under the radar swim is that A Walsh split a 49.8 fly in the medley relay, just off her PB split.

3 months ago

Gretchen 200 free! I want to see👀

Reply to  gitech
3 months ago

Out in 57. Ended 2:01 high.
Looked nice and long going out

About Riley Overend

Riley is an associate editor interested in the stories taking place outside of the pool just as much as the drama between the lane lines. A 2019 graduate of Boston College, he arrived at SwimSwam in April of 2022 after three years as a sports reporter and sports editor at newspapers …

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