2023 W. NCAA Previews: Virginia Eyes Back-To-Back 200 Medley Relay Titles


After posting the fastest time in history at the past three ACC Championships, Virginia enters the 2023 NCAA Championships as the favorite in the women’s 200 medley relay, seeded more than a second ahead of the field with an NCAA-record 1:31.73 last month.

The all-star quartet of sophomore Gretchen Walsh (22.65), junior Alex Walsh (26.10), senior Lexi Cuomo (22.49), and senior Kate Douglass (20.49) lowered the American record they set last year by .08 seconds. Gretchen Walsh’s backstroke leadoff stood as the fastest time ever for less than a day before LSU’s Maggie MacNeil blazed a 22.52 at the SEC Championships.

The Cavaliers have been slower at NCAAs the last couple of years compared to ACCs, including in 2021 when they placed second behind NC State, but it would still be a huge upset if the Wolfpack stole the crown back on Wednesday night.

There are a couple of notable changes in NC State’s relay lineup this year. The Wolfpack replaced four-time NCAA champion Sophie Hansson with senior Heather MacCausland, who went 26.40 during NC State’s runner-up finish at ACCs (1:33.02). They also switched the back half of their relay order at ACCs, with fifth-year Kylee Alons on the butterfly leg and junior Abby Arens on the freestyle anchor. At ACCs, Arens was a couple of tenths slower on the freestyle anchor than Alons was at NCAAs last year, but Alons was nearly a full second faster on the butterfly leg.

Can Texas Put It All Together At the Right Time?

The battle for second place might be closer than the psych sheet indicates if everything goes right for Texas. The Longhorns clocked a 1:33.70 during January’s dual meet against NC State, quicker than they went at NCAAs last year (1:34.46) and the third-fastest time this season behind the Wolfpack (1:33.02) and Cavaliers (1:31.73). Even though Texas was slower the following month at the Big 12 Championships (1:34.21), there were still enough bright spots to signal a time drop could be coming this week.

Junior Olivia Bray (24.88), junior Anna Elendt (24.57), junior Emma Sticklen (22.29), and junior Grace Cooper (21.96) combined for the Longhorns’ season-best time from January. However, race video indicates there was a timing error that added about a second to Bray’s split and shaved about a second off Elendt. Last month, Bray dropped over a second with a 23.85 leadoff, just off her personal-best 23.79 from November, while Cooper shaved .65 seconds off her freestyle anchor split with a 21.31. Both Elendt (26.07) and Sticklen (22.98) added time at Big 12s, so Texas was almost half a second slower than its season best.

Reigning bronze medalist Ohio State comes in as the No. 4 seed behind Texas with a season-best 1:33.95 from last month’s Big Ten Championships. Sophomore Nyah Funderburke led off with a personal-best 23.58 backstroke split, senior Hannah Bach followed with a 26.22 breaststroke split, junior Katherine “Kit Kat” Zenick went 22.60 on the butterfly leg, and sophomore Teresa Ivan closed with a 21.55 freestyle anchor. The Buckeyes might be able to get a little more out of Ivan on the anchor as her lifetime best for a flat-start 50 free sits at 21.78 from Big Tens, just a few tenths slower than her swinging split. That being said, it’s tough to envision them beating out Texas or NC State for a spot on the podium this year.

Split Comparison

Virginia NC State Texas Ohio State
50 Back Gretchen Walsh, 22.65 Katharine Berkoff, 23.22 Olivia Bray, 24.88 Nyah Funderburke, 23.58
50 Breast Alex Walsh, 26.10 Heather MacCausland, 26.40 Anna Elendt, 24.57 Hannah Bach, 26.22
50 Fly Lexi Cuomo, 22.49 Kylee Alons, 21.99 Emma Sticklen, 22.29 Kit Kat Zenick, 22.60
50 Free Kate Douglass, 20.49 Abby Arens, 21.41 Grace Cooper, 21.96 Teresa Ivan, 21.55
Total Time 1:31.73 1:33.02 1:33.70 1:33.95

Note: There appears to have been a timing error during the Longhorns’ season-best from January that resulted in about a second being added to Bray’s split and about a second taken off Elendt’s. 

Other A-Final Contenders

The four teams seeded fifth through eighth on the psych sheet are only separated by about half a second, so this showdown is wide open.

Alabama faces an uphill battle to repeat last year’s fourth-place performance after losing Morgan Scott midway through the season due to injury. Scott split 22.26 on the butterfly leg at NCAAs, the fastest in the field. The Crimson Tide replaced Scott with Emily Jones, a freshman backstroke specialist from Australia who posted an impressive 22.88 fly split at last month’s SEC Championships. Rhyan White (23.76), Avery Wiseman (26.51), and Kalia Antoniou (21.05) rounded out Alabama’s quartet that took home the SEC title more than half a second ahead of Florida. White’s lifetime best in the 50 back is a 23.35 from the 2021 SEC Championships.

Louisville is seeded sixth just a blink behind Alabama with a 1:34.23. Abby Hay (personal-best 23.54), Cecilia Viberg (27.25), Christiana Regenauer (22.56), and Gabi Albiero (20.88) combined for the Cardinals’ third-place finish at ACCs last month. Finishing fourth behind Louisville at ACCs was North Carolina, which is also seeded seventh behind the Cardinals on the psych sheet with a 1:34.70. Florida isn’t far back in the No. 8 seed with a 1:34.76 from its runner-up finish at SECs.

The first three teams outside the A-final “bubble” on the psych sheet all hail from the Pac-12. Cal (1:35.40) is led by backstroker Isabelle Stadden, who split 24.06 to start off the Bears’ conference title-winning squad last month. Stanford’s unit, which placed second behind Cal at Pac-12s by just .02 seconds, is headlined by backstroker Claire Curzan (23.34). The Cardinals could use some help in the breaststroke department, but they could still be a threat, especially if Torri Huske (personal-best 22.72 in 50 fly from last year’s NCAAs) subs in for Emma Wheal (23.19 at Pac-12s) at NCAAs. No. 11 seed USC’s season best this year is from November’s Art Adamson Invitational (1:35.52) rather than Pac-12s (1:35.63).


Place School Season Best
1 Virginia 1:31.73
2 NC State 1:33.02
3 Texas 1:33.70
4 Ohio State 1:33.95
5 Alabama 1:34.20
6 Louisville 1:34.23
7 Cal 1:35.40
8 Florida 1:34.76

Dark Horse: Tennessee If the Lady Vols can get a bit more out of the back half of its relay, it might just have enough for Tennessee to sneak into the A-final as the No. 12 seed on the psych sheet. Sophomore Josephine Fuller led off Tennessee’s third-place squad from SECs with a personal-best 24.12 backstroke split, followed by a strong sub-26 breaststroke split courtesy of junior Mona McSharry (25.99). Fifth-year Emma Carlton was only slightly faster than her best flat-start 50 fly time of 23.55 from last March with a 23.32, and junior Jasmine Rumley anchored with a 22.10 split, slower than her personal-best 21.81 from last February.

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1 year ago


1 year ago

We really saying that 24.5 br is accurate?

Reply to  SwimCoachSean
1 year ago

lol I read to the end of the paragraph that said Texas’ season bests add up to a 1:32.0, reread the paragraph and did a double take when I saw Elendt supposedly outsplit Bray’s backstroke leadoff and checked swimcloud, which indeed does say that Elendt went a 24.5 in January.

USASwimming says that the fastest 50 breast split in history is King’s 25.38 from 2018 NCAAs so 24.5 is probably a tad bit wrong

Reply to  SwimCoachSean
1 year ago

Looking at the splits, I’m guessing something went wrong with the backstroke to breaststroke switch since neither a 24.88 backstroke from Bray nor a 24.57 breaststroke makes sense.

It’s funny though that UT’s own athletic website says that Elendt went a 24.57 split

Last edited 1 year ago by jeff
1 year ago

no stanford in top 8? adding huske should definitely put them at least above cal

Reply to  emma
1 year ago

Why would they add Huske? She’ll be on the other 4.

Unknown Swammer
1 year ago

Has Anna Elendt really been 24.5 for Texas? I’m not sure those back/breast splits are right are they?

Reply to  Unknown Swammer
1 year ago

no chance that’s right

Reply to  Unknown Swammer
1 year ago

No they weren’t.

Reply to  oxyswim
1 year ago

Yeah there was a timing error that made Bray look slower and Elendt look faster. NC St should probably be favored over them

Reply to  Unknown Swammer
1 year ago

Common sense tells you it’s not right.
1. Bray is faster than her split
2. Elendt has never been near 24.5

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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