Ella Nelson

View Current photo via Peter H. Brick

Ella Nelson is an American IM and breaststroke swimmer. Competing collegiately for UVA, she never missed an A final in hear career, with her valuable points contributing to4 UVA team titles. 

Ella Nelson is a member of the University of Virginia swim team. While attending Harpeth Hall High School in Nashville, she was teammates with Alex and Gretchen Walsh who are now teammates at UVA. At age 13, her and her teammate Gretchen Walsh, qualified for the Olympic Swim Trials for the 2016 Summer Olympics. Prior to college, Nelson was named All-State and All-Region all four years of high school. In 2018, she set a national record in the 200-medley relay.  Additionally, Nelson was named the 2017-18 national champion by Swimming World Magazine. 

UVA Women’s Swimming & Diving


In Nelson’s first year swimming for UVA, she set a school record in the 200-yard breaststroke and the 400-yard IM at the ACC championship. She was runner-up in both events earning herself All-ACC honors.  Additionally, she earned All-American honors in the 200 breast, 200 IM, 400 IM, and 800 free relay for advancing to the NCAA championship in those events.  However, she did not get to compete in the NCAA Championship because it was canceled due to the pandemic. In addition to her swimming skills, Nelson was named to the All-ACC Academic Team.


As a sophomore, Nelson anchored her 800 free relay to gold at the ACC championship.  Individually, she won the 400-yard IM at the ACC Championships and placed 3rd in the 200 breaststroke and 4th in the 200-yard IM.  At the NCAA championship meet she earned three All-American honors, finishing second in the 200-yard breaststroke and 400-yard IM and 5th in the 200-yard IM at the NCAA Championship meet.  


Nelson’s swimming skills continued to improve as she helped her 800 free relay win the ACC title which set a new meet record in the event.  Individually, she won gold in the 400 IM setting her second meet record at the ACC championship.  At the NCAA her 800 free relay placed 2nd, while she finished 3rd in the 400 IM, 4th in the 200 breaststroke, and 8th in the 200 IM.  After her NCAA championship performance, she was named a four-time All-American.


In Nelson’s senior year, she won the 500 free and the 400 IM at the ACC championship setting a new pool and meet record in the 400 IM.  Additionally, she anchored her relay to victory at the ACC championship in the 800 free relay. 


Against Florida, Nelson clocked a 2:09.68 200 breast for the win and a 4:12.26 400 IM for 2nd behind Emma Weyant. She improved that 200 breast to 2:08.86 against Texas.

At the Tennessee Invite, which featured a LCM prelims/SCY finals format, Nelson posted a slew of season bests. In the 200 IM, Nelson put up a swift 1:53.95. In the 400 IM, Nelson had a solid prelims swim of 4:47.52. She converted that to a 4:03.61 in finals, the #1 time in the nation. In the 200 breast, Nelson threw down a swift 2:25.34 in prelims and backed that up with a 2:06.10 in the final.  

Against North Carolina and NC State, Nelson in a showdown against Alex Walsh, put up a swift 4:04.24 behind Walsh’s 4:00.52. 

In the lead up to championship season, Nelson hit some head turning times. In a 200 IM time trial, Nelson hit a season-best time of 1:53.60, keeping her at #4 in the nation. She also posted a quick 1:44.33 200 free and a 59.04 100 breast, both new PBs.

On the first night of ACCs, UVA assembled an all-time squad in the 800 free relay. Grethen Walsh lead things off with a 1:40.23. Alex walsh followed her sister with a 1:41.23 split, Aimee Canny went 1:42.24, and Ella Nelson, chasing down Katie Ledecky’s split from the NCAA record,, anchored in 1:42.58. All told, the quartet couldn’t quite nab the all-time mark of 6:45.91, but their finish of 6:46.28 appeared to be the 2nd-fastest performance ever.

The next night, Nelson hit a solid 1:54.21 for 2nd in the 200 IM behind A. Walsh’s 1:51.76. In the 400 IM,  Nelson won her fourth ACC title with a 4:03.80, winning by nearly six seconds. That made her the first woman to win 4 straight 400 IMs at ACCs since another Cavalier, Macedonian Olympian Mirjana Bosevska, did the same from 2000 to 2003. 

After putting up a season best 2:06.04 200 breast in prelims, Nelson, busted out a new PB of 2:04.29 in the finals for runner up behind A. Walsh (2:04.29).

A consistent contributor to UVA’s dynasty, Nelson crack 40 individual points and made A finals in all 3 individual events for a 4th straight NCAAs. Nelson opend things up with a 1:42.37 split in the 800 free relay as UVA placed 4th.

 The next morning, Nelson hit a new PB of 1:53.05 in the 200 IM prleims to qualify 3rd. She added .6 seconds in the final to 1:53.65, still good for 7th and 12 points. She followed that up the next prelims with a 4:02.93 400 IM, a season best but still well off her PB of 3:59.33 for 2023 ACC. In the final, Nelson was slower with a 4:04.33 but still netted a 6th place finish and 13 points. She wrapped her illustrious college career in the 200 breast, hitting a 2:04.80 for 3rd in the final.

Best Times

Course Event Time Date Meet
scy 200 Free 1:45.35 11/04/23 Texas vs. Virginia
Austin, Texas
scy 500 Free 4:38.04 02/15/23 Atlantic Coast Championships
Greensboro, North Carolina
scy 1000 Free 10:02.00 01/25/20 Virginia vs. North Carolina
Charlottesville, Virginia
scy 200 Breast 2:04.29 02/23/24 2024 ACC Championships
Greensboro, North Carolina
scy 200 IM 1:53.05 03/21/24 2024 NCAA Division 1 Womens Championship
Athens, Georgia
scy 400 IM 3:59.33 02/16/23 Atlantic Coast Championships
Greensboro, North Carolina
lcm 200 Free 2:02.11 07/15/22 Virginia Swimming Long Course Senior Championships
Lynchburg, Virginia
lcm 200 IM 2:14.84 06/15/21 USA Olympic Team Trials
Omaha, Nebraska
lcm 400 IM 4:45.16 05/13/23 VA WAC May Splash
Richmond, Virginia