Loaded Harpeth Hall Leads Tennessee High School State Psychs

2019 TISCA Tennessee High School State Championship

  • Friday, February 8 – Saturday, February 9, 2019
  • Tracy Caulkins Competition Pool, Nashville, TN
  • Meet central
  • Psych sheets

The 2019 Tennessee High School State meet this weekend promises fast swimming from some of the nation’s top high schoolers, including a juggernaut of a girls squad from Harpeth Hall.

The Tennessee meet is unique for a couple reasons: first, it’s actually run by the state coaches association (TISCA) instead of the state’s high school governing body, which doesn’t sponsor swimming & diving as a sport. Maybe more pertinent to the actual competition, the meet is run by splitting the classic high school meet lineup over two days. Both days will feature prelims at 9:30 AM and finals at 6:00 PM, with the following events on each day:

Friday Events

  • 200 medley relay
  • 200 freestyle
  • 200 IM
  • 50 freestyle
  • 1-meter diving (girls)
  • 100 butterfly

Saturday Events

  • 100 freestyle
  • 500 freestyle
  • 200 freestyle relay
  • 1-meter diving (boys)
  • 100 backstroke
  • 100 breaststroke
  • 400 freestyle relay

Girls Meet Preview

The girls of Harpeth Hall have won five consecutive Tennessee state titles, powered by an elite foursome that could sweep every individual swimming event in 2019.

Alex Walsh and Gretchen Walsh are the main powerhouses. The sisters combined for four individual wins last year and helped Harpeth Hall sweep the relays. Alex will return to defend her titles in the 200 free and 100 breast, while shooting for her own state records in both races. Alex Walsh, a junior, was 1:45.24 in the 200 free in 2017 as a freshman, and just missed that record by seven tenths last year. She did break the state 100 breast record, though, going 58.88 last year and winning by nearly two-and-a-half seconds.

Younger sister Gretchen, currently a sophomore, will switch up her events this year. In 2018, she led a 1-2 finish for Harpeth Hall in the 50 free, but she’ll vacate that event in favor of the 100 fly. Gretchen Walsh‘s best time of 52.23 would smash the current state record (53.64), and she’s expected to run away with that win. Gretchen Walsh will also try to defend her 100 back title. She was 52.85 last year and just missed her older sister’s state record by .05. Gretchen Walsh has since gone 51.75 at Winter Juniors, and should be primed to take down Alex’s record.

Harpeth Hall has a shot to win every event on the girls side. With Gretchen Walsh out of the 50 free, Ophelia Pilkinton is the top returner. She was second behind Walsh last year and now holds the top incoming seed by six tenths of a second. With a half-second drop or so, she could challenge Gretchen Walsh‘s state record of 22.26. Pilkinton is also the top seed in the 100 free by a wide margin.

The race to watch for is the 500 free. Last year, the Baylor School’s Addison Smith beat out Harpeth Hall’s Ella Nelson 4:48.18 to 1:50.16 in a thrilling showdown. This year, Nelson has already been 4:49.34, but Smith was 4:46.83 at Winter Juniors.

Nelson is the top seed in the 200 IM as well. She won the event in 1:58.31 and has since dropped about a tenth from that time. With a good swim, she could challenge the state record of 1:57.87.

Last year, Harpeth Hall spread out its stars to win all three relays. But they may be one swimmer short of doing the same this year. The Walshes, Nelson and fellow top talent Alex Massey should return in the 200 medley to chase their state and national independent high school record of 1:38.77 from last year. Pilkinton should swim both free relays, leaving one more relay swim each for the four medley swimmers. Harpeth Hall will have to decide between loading up the 400 free relay to challenge their 2017 state record or loading the 200 free relay to challenge a state record the relay fell two tenths short of last year.

Currently, Maryville High is the top seed in the 200 free relay, while Harpeth leads the medley and the 400 free.

Boys meet Preview

On the boys side, things have tightened up considerably since Baylor won by 58 last year. That’s in large part because highly-touted recruit Trey Freeman has graduated, bringing the Baylor relays back down to earth.

Baylor still has returning double-individual winner Jack Kirbywho should look to defend his 100 free and 100 back titles. Kirby was 44.45 in the free last year, rattling Freeman’s state record of 44.24. In his senior year, the Barbados international and USC commit should have a shot at that record and a very outside shot of taking down the 100 back record. It stands at 47.36 and Kirby was 48.23 last year. He was 47.88 in December, though, and would only need about half a second to challenge the record.

The McCallie School was second as a team last year, and should benefit in a big way from Freeman’s graduation. Current junior Will Jackson is the top seed in the 200 and 500 frees. He’ll have his hands full with some fast returners, though. The top 3 from last year’s 200 free don’t return, but Jackson (1:42.32) finished fifth, just behind teammate Jake MarcumThe two are currently #1 and #2 on psych sheets, with Jackson sitting at 1:40.68 and Marcum 1:41.15.

In the 500, Jackson is the top seed, but Hume Fogg’s Ian Marshall is the top returner with his 4:37.54 from prelims last year. Jackson was 4:38.51 at best last year, and the 500 should be an excellent race between last year’s 5th (Marshall) and 6th (Jackson) place finishers.

McCallie will also look to avenge a narrow loss in the 200 free relay last year. Their 1:26.11 fell just two hundredths short of state champ Bearden High, and McCallie does return half of that relay and come in with the top seed.

The state record in the 50 free could be on alert. Knoxville West’s Coleman Kredich was 20.45 last year in taking second, and he returns to challenge Freeman’s state mark of 20.21. The top seed is Oakland’s Joseph Jordan, who comes in with a 20.93.

Webb School of Knoxville’s Jack Hamilton is the top returner in the 200 IM, having gone 1:52.68 last year. He comes in with a 1:51.76 seed time already this year, and the two finishers ahead of him last year graduated. Houston High’s Daniel West is the top returner in the 100 breast, having taken 4th last year in 56.69.

Even diving should be a thriller. Last year, Berean Christian’s Nicholas Cassell (475.95 points) won narrowly over Smoky Mountain’s Dillon Richardson (474.60) and Clinton High’s Jacob Reasor (472.05). All three divers return this year.

The team battle should be as close as it’s been in years, with McCallie and Maryvile High School aiming to outpace the Baylor School. We’re told that scored psych sheets have Maryville slightly ahead of Baylor on the boys side – that would be just the fourth time since 2007 that Baylor has lost the boys title.

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2 years ago

Weird how some states go 60-70-80 deep in some events, while Texas only goes to 24 (top 2 in each event from each of 8 Regions automatically qualify, then next 8 fastest times from around the state get called up). I guess qualifying for Regions in Texas is equivalent to making it to the State meet in many others states.

Coach Mike 1952
2 years ago

Paragraph 2 of the Girls Meet has Alex Walsh going 1:45+ for a 200 backstroke? As a HS freshman no less? Even with Kathleen Baker holding the (old?) record of 1:47+? Believe there is a typo here.

Tammy Touchpad Error
2 years ago

Seems like they both not swimming best events. No sprints for Gretch or 2 IM forAlex??

DPS Doctor
2 years ago

The article says Harpeth Hall has 4 elite swimmers, however if one looks at the Automatic All American qualifying times Harpeth Hall has 5 elite swimmers.

About Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson swam for nearly twenty years. Then, Jared Anderson stopped swimming and started writing about swimming. He's not sick of swimming yet. Swimming might be sick of him, though. Jared was a YMCA and high school swimmer in northern Minnesota, and spent his college years swimming breaststroke and occasionally pretending …

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