2023 NCAA WOMEN’S SWIMMING AND DIVING CHAMPIONSHIPS
- March 15-18, 2023
- Allan Jones Aquatic Center–Knoxville, Tennessee
- SCY (25 yards)
- Meet Central
- Psych Sheets
- Live Results
- Live Stream
- SwimSwam Preview Index
- Pick ’em Contest
- Day 2 Scoring Analysis
- Day 1 Finals Live Recap
- Day 2 Prelims Live Recap | Day 2 Finals Live Recap
- Day 3 Prelims Live Recap | Day 3 Finals Live Recap
The third day of the NCAA Championships saw two more NCAA records go down in the 100 fly and 100 back, with more exciting individual showdowns in the 400 IM, 200 free, and 100 breast. Hear what the winners had to say after their races on Friday night in Knoxville.
Virginia junior Alex Walsh triumphed in the 400 IM with a time of 3:57.24, bettering her lifetime best by .01 seconds just like she did in the 200 IM. Then she finished the evening with another win in the 400 medley relay, splitting 56.79 on the breaststroke leg. During the post-race media session, Walsh was asked if the Cavaliers’ accomplishments have started to sink in yet with the team on the verge of a three-peat and relay sweep on Saturday night.
“For us, the relay sweep is a huge accomplishment,” Walsh said. “I was actually talking to Maddie Donohoe yesterday and she said the last time a team has put together this multi-year performance was the legendary Stanford team when they had Katie Ledecky, Lia Neal, and Simone Manuel. Thinking that we’re on the same level as that is pretty shocking because I think we’ve all looked up to those people throughout our whole middle school and high school careers. So it’s pretty awesome to think about that accomplishment in the context of history.”
Virginia senior Kate Douglass was coming off an insane NCAA, U.S. Open, and American record of 1:48.37 in the 200 IM, but even she was “shocked” that her hand reached wall first in 48.46 during the most stacked 100 fly race in history featuring reigning Olympic champion Maggie MacNeil (48.51), defending world champion Torri Huske (48.96), and world junior record holder Claire Curzan (50.09).
“I think I knew going into the race that I was going to have a good swim and the time was going to be good, but honestly just had no idea who was going to touch first,” Douglass said. “Anyone in that heat could have touched first. I was pretty shocked when I looked at the board because I knew that Maggie was close to me and Torri was close — and I had a pretty bad finish — so I was definitely shocked to see I touched first. But I was honestly just really excited to get the points for my team. It was a great race.
Douglass added that the past few weeks of training gave her the confidence to go for an aggressive start in this race.
“I guess I kind of just wanted to for it from the beginning, just kind of send it the first 50 and hold on,” she said of her race strategy. “In training the past three weeks, I built up the confidence that I could finish the 100 fly no matter how bad it hurt. So I just wanted to go as fast as I could the first 50.”
Stanford fifth year Taylor Ruck was happy after defending her 200 free title (1:42.36) in an exciting battle against Tennessee sophomore Brooklyn Douthwright (1:42.41) and Virginia freshman Aimee Canny (1:42.50), but the four-time Olympic medalist from Canada admitted that missing her best time added “more fuel to the fire” moving forward.
“It definitely is really cool to do the two-peat, but obviously it wasn’t my best time, so that got under my skin a little bit,” Ruck said. “But I’m super happy with the result and winning those points for Stanford. Overall, happy with today, but definitely more fuel to the fire gearing up for next year.
“This meet has been kind of weird, personally,” she added. “I haven’t done best times, but then I’ve done times that I’m happy with. Lots of ups and downs in just a few sessions. After the meet is over, I’m going to kind of think about that and see what I can do better for the meets coming up. Canadian Trials is in like a week, so we’ll see how I can maneuver that situation.”
Ruck’s experience mentoring Stanford’s talented crop of underclassmen has led her to identify now as a “fifth-year granny.”
“It’s so cool to have their life and enthusiasm inspiring me, like the passion of what got me into swimming,” Ruck said. “I think the best moments so far have been seeing the whole team come together around the people who swim and cheering each other on. Even on other teams too, it’s just so cool to be in this environment.”
After pulling off a comeback win in the 100 breast (57.03), Texas freshman Lydia Jacoby spoke about how her mental approach to swimming has shifted over the past couple years since her stunning victory at the Tokyo Olympics.
“Going into Olympic Trials and the Olympics, I was kind of a rookie and no one knew who I was,” Jacoby said. “I had the mentality of I’ve never done this — I have so many chances to do it. Then once I had done it, I kind of got in my head like I’ve done this — I have to do it again, I have to do it again. So I’ve just kind of switched that mentality around to I’ve done this, and I have nothing to prove. So just swimming freely is the biggest thing.
“I just had a pretty big burnout with swimming (after the Olympics),” she added. “It was just a big struggle day in and day out to get into the pool. I graduated a semester early, so I didn’t have a lot going on outside the pool either. So it was kind of hard mentally to kind of balance everything. I was struggling to get the performance I wanted in the water. So yeah, a lot of factors, but I’m happy to be back.”
Jacoby also told the story of her last-minute cap change that she jokingly credited as the difference-maker in her race.
“I had my arena racing cap with the orange Longhorn on it, and 40 minutes before my race, I was like, ‘Hey Mitch (Dalton), do you have any more of the pink Longhorn caps?’ He was like, ‘I can probably get you one.’ So I just figured he had one in the car or something, but shoutout to (director of operations) Jon Alter because he drove all the way back to the hotel and then all the way back,” Jacoby said. “He was telling me how he hit all the green lights just right. So cap made the difference. That was a big gesture for me.”
Virginia sophomore Gretchen Walsh approached the 100 back with the goal of breaking 49 seconds and nearly skipped 48 altogether with a new NCAA-record 48.26.
“My goal was to break 49 at least, and I did that, and that was awesome,” Walsh said. “It was great racing those girls, they kept me super relaxed in the ready room. I’m just overall so happy because I didn’t know I was going to go that time. I just wanted to go a best time.”
“It was super fun,” she added. “I definitely felt it on the last 25, but when do you not feel the last 25? Something that I’ve probably said in every interview is I’ve just been really working on my underwaters. I’ve been doing 12 kicks off every wall. It’s not that I’m not good on the surface, but I think that’s what gives me that edge.”
Gretchen Walsh also said that she got a text from UVA math professor Ken Ono saying he lost a bet that she would go under 48 seconds.
“He said he lost some money betting that I would go under 48,” she laughed. “He said next year. So there’s always more in store.”
Her older sister, Alex, added that she didn’t think 49.2 was possible before Friday night.
“Last year when she went 49-flat, that was awesome and I remember feeling almost brought to tears,” Alex Walsh said. “It’s just so incredible to see Gretchen step into the role she has on the team now. I couldn’t be prouder of her. I didn’t think 49.2 was possible.”
Ruck’s comment about a non-PB, even in winning, recalls what heat Rick Carey took in L.A. in ’84 when people thought it was high temerity for him not to rejoice greatly just in having won the Olympic gold. Driven…is driven. You are chasing the win AND your own best self, simultaneously, out there. Good swimming, Taylor!
Taylor did great in the interview. But in Carey’s case it looks ridiculous not to celebrate an Olympic gold medal. Those tapes are going to be available forever. The best time you were shooting for now seems like it belongs to a different event or different gender. Meanwhile you’re on camera not smiling and acting like a crosspatch. I guarantee the people who take that approach recognize the error later in life and don’t watch or enjoy the clips nearly as much as the winners who were joyful.
That is the moment in time you are going to be remembered for. You’ve got to have enough big picture clarity to understand as much, instead of fuming over two theoretically available… Read more »
Just amazing. Soooo many great swims. Incredible.