2023 W. NCAA Previews: Virginia Looks to Add Another Record to the Books in 400 MR


As is the case with most of the relays at this year’s NCAA Championships, Virginia’s 400 medley relay quartet is simply a step above the rest of the competition.

After returning three of four members from their NCAA title-winning team in 2022, the Cavaliers shattered their own U.S. open record in the event during the ACC Championships last month. Sophomore Gretchen Walsh (49.44 backstroke), junior Alex Walsh (57.45 breaststroke), senior Kate Douglass (48.25 butterfly), and freshman Aimee Canny (46.85 freestyle) combined for a 3:21.80, taking down the previous mark of 3:22.34 first set by Virginia at last year’s ACC Championships. The Cavaliers went on to swim that exact same time at NCAAs the next month.

Splits Comparison, Virginia’s NCAA Records

2023 ACC Champs 2022 NCAA Champs 2022 ACC Champs
Back Gretchen Walsh (49.25) Gretchen Walsh (49.44) Gretchen Walsh (49.71)
Breast Alex Walsh (57.45) Alexis Wenger (57.27) Alexis Wenger (56.79)
Fly Kate Douglass (48.25) Alex Walsh (49.45) Alex Walsh (49.59)
Free Aimee Canny (46.85) Kate Douglass (46.18) Kate Douglass (46.25)
Final 3:21.80 3:22.34 3:22.34

Notably, the three returning Virginia swimmers from last year’s winning relay squad all dropped time at last year’s NCAAs, with then-senior Alexis Wenger adding about half a second on the breaststroke leg. Their versatility has been on full display this season with Alex Walsh seamlessly switching to breast, Douglass throwing down the fastest split in history on her new fly duties, and freshman Aimee Canny filling in on the freestyle anchor leg. Since Canny is South African, last month’s NCAA record did not count as a new American record.

The Rest of the Podium

Texas comes in as the No. 2 seed in this race with a season-best time of 3:25.29 from January’s dual meet against NC State. The swim marked a new Big 12 record, the Longhorns’ second of the season in the event after posting a 3:25.96 mid-season at the Minnesota Invite last November.

Splits Comparison:

2022 Minnesota Invite 2023 NC State Dual Meet
Back Olivia Bray – 50.92 Olivia Bray – 51.48
Breast Anna Elendt – 57.08 Lydia Jacoby – 57.13
Fly Emma Sticklen – 50.82 Emma Sticklen – 49.35
Free Kelly Pash – 47.14 Kelly Pash – 47.33
3:25.96 3:25.29

One question mark for Texas will be whether they go with Anna Elendt or Lydia Jacoby on the breaststroke leg. Elendt went 57.08 in November, Jacoby clocked a 57.13 in January, and Elendt subbed back in at Big 12s with a 57.16. The most eye-popping drop from November to January was Emma Sticklen’s 49.35 fly split, which ranked as the fifth-fastest ever. Adding up the Longhorns’ season-best splits — Bray’s 50.92 from November, Elendt’s 57.08 from November, Sticklen’s 49.35 from January, and Pash’s 47.08 from February — totals a final time of 3:24.43, so they should be the favorite for the silver medal if they can all click at the right time.

NC State faces an uphill battle to defend its silver medal from last year without top breaststroker Sophie Hansson, who blazed a 56.67 at NCAAs last year. Heather MacCausland filled in at ACCs last month with a 58.27 breast split as the Wolfpack finished with a season-best time of 3:26.28, good for second place in the conference behind Virginia. NC State shaved off 1.39 seconds at NCAAs last year, so another time drop is likely on the horizon, but its quartet was also a second and a half faster last year heading into NCAAs than this year.

The Wolfpack will have to leapfrog No. 3 seed Stanford in order to return to the podium this year. Claire Curzan (49.76), Allie Raab (59.44), Torri Huske (49.74), and Taylor Ruck (46.85) combined for a 3:25.79 to win the Pac-12 title last month. A big opening backstroke split from Katharine Berkoff (49.73 at ACCs, 49.25 at NCAAs last year) could be enough to close that gap unless Curzan also posts a big time drop.

Ohio State’s quartet of Nyah Funderburke (51.90), Hannah Bach (57.53), Kit Kat Zenick (50.72), and Amy Fulmer (46.53) is seeded nearly two seconds ahead of the rest of the field. Alabama (3:28.56), Tennessee (3:28.78), and Indiana (3:29.82) round out the top eight on the psych sheet.

Watch out for Louisville, which is underseeded in this event because of a disqualification at ACCs. The Cardinals’ season best is a 3:32.22 from November’s Purdue Invitational, but they have the firepower to go 3:28-point at their peak. Gabi Albiero swam the freestyle leg mid-season, but Louisville might be best suited with Christiana Regenauer on the anchor and Albiero on the fly leg instead.

SwimSwam’s Picks:

Rank School Season Best
1 Virginia 3:21.80
2 Texas 3:25.29
3 Stanford 3:25.79
4 NC State 3:26.28
5 Ohio State 3:26.68
6 Louisville 3:32.22
7 Alabama 3:28.56
8 Indiana 3:29.98


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2 months ago

An interesting article, that would require a lot of digging….
What team (men & women) has held the most American/NCAA records in scy in the last 25 years

2 months ago

Gretchen – new phone who dis?
Kate – No i’m not interested in a used car warranty

Octavio Gupta
Reply to  Bryan
2 months ago

That’s not Gretchen.

Reply to  Bryan
2 months ago

that is Alex not Gretchen

2 months ago

fantastic photo choice. That will probably end up encapsulating the vibe of the whole meet lol

2 months ago

Texas has a 51sec bk leg and Stanford has a 60sec br leg. Nah, 🐺 will be 2nd

Reply to  Breezeway
2 months ago

Raab was literally just 59.4 at PAC-12s. Elendt has been 56.4 with a flying start before so even if Bray is 2 seconds behind Berkhoff whoever is on the BR leg for Texas is going to put them in a position to go by NC State on the back half.

Reply to  Breezeway
2 months ago

I love your confidence.

Reply to  Nonrevhoofan
2 months ago

Book it!

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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