Gretchen Walsh is a competitive swimmer who represents the United States internationally. She is a 3x individual NCAA champion and NCAA-record holder as a part of the 200 free, 400 free, 200 medley, and 400 medley relays with Virginia.
Gretchen first appeared on SwimSwam at the age of 12, the same age that her sister Alex Walsh made her first appearance. Soon after that, Gretchen went on to break numerous NAG records, both as an individual and in relays.
Youngest Under 22
On March 3, 2018, at the Southern Premiere in Nashville, Tennessee, Gretchen broke the 22 second barrier in the 50 free for the first time in her career, touching the wall at 21.85. That was not only a best time, but also set the NAG for 15-16 girls. Oddly enough, Gretchen had already been under the old 15-16 NAG of 22.04 (22.00), but she had only been 14 when she had posted that time, so it wasn’t eligible for the 15-16 record. This made Gretchen the youngest female to ever break 22 seconds in the 50 free.
2018 US Nationals
In the first session in Irvine, Walsh touched in 54.38 in the 100 freestyle, making her the youngest 15-year-old female in US history in the event. That also garnered her a spot in her first A-final at a senior national meet. Her finals swim qualified her for the Jr. Pan Pacific Championships team.
2018 Jr Pan Pacific Championships
In Fiji, Walsh swam the 200 free (12th, 2:01.99), 100 free (1st, 54.47, breaking Simone Manuel’s 2012 meet record), 100 fly (16th in prelims, 1:02.27), and 50 free (2nd, 25.57).
She also swam on Team USA’s gold medal winning mixed 4×100 medley relay, 4×200 free relay, 4×100 free relay, and 4×100 medley relay, netting 5 golds and a silver from the meet.
2019 Southern Premiere
Gretchen kept the good times rolling into 2019, and in her home pool in Nashville dropped 3 NAGs in 1 weekend. First she helped Nashville Aquatic Club to a new record in the 200 medley relay, splitting 21.25 on the anchor leg. She then matched her already existing 15-16 NAG in the 50 free by touching at 21.82 for the 2nd time in her career. On the final day of the meet, she blew away the old 15-16 100 free NAG (held by Simone Manuel) posting a time of 47.49, cutting over 2 tenth off the old record of 47.73.
2019 US Nationals
At the 2019 US nationals, Walsh placed in the top 16 in 4 events, recording personal bests in all of them. She placed 2nd in both the 50 (24.85) and 100 (54.13) free, qualifying her for spots on the World Jr Roster in both events.
She also placed 9th in the 100 back (1:00.26, 2nd fastest time overall in finals) and 13th (58.84) in the 100 fly.
2019 World Junior Championships
Before the start of the meet, Walsh was voted as 1 of 5 captains for Team USA.
In her first finals race of the meet, Walsh split 53.60 anchoring the mixed 400 medley relay, which helped USA net a gold medal and break the world record in the event.
On day 3 of competition, Walsh touched 1st in the 100 free, besting the field by nearly a full second to touch in a personal best of 53.74, marking her first time under the 54 second barrier. Walsh was back less than an hour later, anchoring the mixed 4×100 free relay in 53.83 to touch for gold and a new world junior record of 3:25.92.
Walsh helped the US to another relay gold on day 5, this time in the 4×100 free relay.
On the final day of the meet, Walsh capped her individual events with a win in the 50 free, going a big personal best of 24.71. She finished her program in the 4×100 medley relay, anchoring in 53.01 to help USA win gold.
Commitment to Virginia
Gretchen Walsh was ranked the #1 swimmer in the class of 2021 in SwimSwam’s Way Too Early NCAA Recruits list as a junior in high school. On January 4th, 2020, Gretchen announced she would follow in the footsteps of her sister, sending her verbal commitment to the University of Virginia.
2 National High School Records, 1 Weekend
At the 2020 TISCA State Championships, Walsh took down not 1, but 2 national high school records in the 50 and 100 free. Both were formerly held by 2016 Olympian Abbey Weitzeil. On day 1 of the meet, Walsh swam to a 21.59 in the 50 free, taking .05 off of Weitzeil’s old record. On day 2, Walsh touched at 46.98, winning by over 3 seconds and becoming the 1st girl to break 47 seconds in high school competition.
Gretchen had a phenomenal freshman season, going multiple personal bests in-season at dual meets. This was highlighted by Walsh breaking the unofficial American record in the 50 back, clocking a 23.04 leading off the 200 medley relay at the UVA/NC State dual meet in January.
She kept the momentum rolling at her first ACCs, where she placed 2nd in the 50 free (21.04, just .04 behind her teammate Kate Douglass), 2nd in the 100 back (50.13), and 2nd in the 100 free (46.86, again just .05 behind teammate Kate Douglass). She also helped UVA to relays titles in the 200 free (1:24.47, NCAA, US Open, and American record), 200 medley (1:31.81, NCAA, US Open, and American record), 400 medley (3:22.34, NCAA, US Open, and American record), and 400 free (3:08.22, meet record) relays.
At her first NCAA Championships, Walsh placed 2nd in the 50 free (20.95, #3 performer All-Time), 2nd in the 100 back (49.00, #2 performer All-Time), and won her first individual NCAA title in the 100 free at 46.05 (#4 performer All-Time). She also helped UVA to title in the 200 free, 400 free, 200 medley, and 400 medley relays, breaking NCAA, US Open, and American record in the 400 medley and free relays.
Walsh continued her momentum into her sophomore season. At ACCs, she broke the NCAA record in the 50 free while winning the event, clocking a 20.83. She also placed 2nd behind teammate Kate Douglass in the 100 fly (49.34) and 100 free (46.32). On relays, Walsh helped UVA set US Open and NCAA records in the 200 free, 400 free, 200 medley, and 400 medley relays.
At NCAAs, Walsh carried her form from ACCs into Knoxville. She started her meet with a 2nd place finish in the 50 free (20.85) to LSU’s Maggie MacNeil, who broke Walsh’s NCAA record with a 20.79. It was Walsh’s only loss of the meet, however, as she went onto crush the NCAA record in the 100 back (48.26) en route to victory and win the 100 free in 45.61, the 2nd fastest swim ever. She was also once again a huge part of UVA sweeping the relays, swimming in the 200&400 free and medleys.
2022 U.S. Summer Nationals
Over the course of the week in Irvine, CA Walsh raced the 50 free, 100 free, 100 back, and 100 butterfly, winning the National Title in the latter of the four events with her time of 57.44. She also earned runner-up finishes in both the 50 freestyle (24.47) and 100 freestyle (53.86), while finishing 5th in the 100 backstroke (1:00.03). Notably, this meet served as a “redemption” meet for Walsh, who failed to qualify for the 2022 US World Championships team and the 2021 Olympic Team after entering as a favorite to make both teams.
Citing her mental strategy, Walsh’s Virginia coach Todd DeSorbo had her wearing a practice suit through the prelims of the 100 freestyle, not allowing her to race in a tech suit until she hit a predetermined time standard. Based on the fact that she raced in a tech suit for the 100 freestyle final and throughout the remainder of the weekend, Walsh’s prelims time of 54.77 presumptuously hit the standard.
2023 U.S. International Team Trials (Indianapolis, Indiana)
In the 100 free, Walsh was 4th through the prelims with a 53.64. The time was a personal best by .1 seconds, her first best in the event since her breakout 53.74 at the 2019 World Junior Championships. In the final, she qualified for her first World Championships with a 53.14 for 3rd and a relay spot. The next morning in the 50 fly, she dropped a hunk of time off her previous best of 25.97 with a 25.54 for top seed. Despite her slow start, Walsh posted an American and U.S. Open Record in the 50 fly with a 25.11. “I’ve come a long way. I’m just excited to go. I want to go to Japan,” said Walsh post-race. The swim tied her as the 3rd fastest performer of all time behind Swedes Sarah Sjostoem and Therese Alshammar and even with Rikako Ikee.
In the 100 fly final, Gretchen Walsh was slow off the blocks but got out to the lead at the 50 under the World Record pace with a 25.68. Reigning world champions Huske and Kate Douglass pulled closer down the stretch to steal a way to victory on the finish as Huske finished 1st and Walsh 2nd. The top three finishers: Huske (56.18), Walsh (56.34), and Kate Douglass (56.43) posted the top three times in the World.
Walsh took on the 50 back, placing 3rd in 27.54. She wrapped up her meet with the 50 free. She posted a personal best of 24.31 for 2nd behind Abbey Weitzeil’s 24.00.
2023 World Aquatics Championships (Fukuoka, Japan)
At her first Worlds, Walsh was slightly off her bests in all her swims but probably met expectations with her perflormances. In the 100 fly, she advanced through all rounds. Walsh was 8th in prelims (57.74), 6th in semis (57.14), and 8th in the final (57.58). Her PB of 56.34 would have netted silver.
Walsh led of the silver-worthy 400 free relay in 54.06 but even her best time there would have done nothing more to improve their placement. The 50 fly was probably Walsh’s best event of the meet. She was 6th in prelims (25.78) and 3rd in semis (25.48) before ripping a 25.46 for bronze in the final. That final was just minutes befor the 50 free semifinal where Walsh failed to make it back in 24.71. She bounced back with a 57.06 split on the 400 medley relay as the American Women won their first relay gold of the meet.