Moments After Walsh Hits Fastest-Ever 50 Back (22.65), MacNeil Undercuts With 22.52

by Ben Dornan 7

February 14th, 2023 ACC, College, News, Records, SEC



Swimming at the 2023 ACC and 2023 SEC Championships, respectively, Gretchen Walsh and Maggie MacNeil swam the two fastest 50 backstroke splits in history. Walsh started off with a 22.65 to help Virginia get an ACC title and new American record of 1:31.73. Moments later, however, MacNeil threw down a 22.52 to undercut Walsh’s time. MacNeil’s LSU went on to finish 8th overall in the event with a 1:36.59.

Heading into this meet, Walsh held the unofficial American (and world) record of 22.82. Walsh first brought the 50 backstroke under 23 seconds a year ago at the 2022 ACC Championships when she split that 22.82 and contributed to Virginia’s conference title in that event. After that barrier-breaking swim, Walsh went even fast at the 2022 NCAA Swimming Championships when she posted a 22.81 to start things off for Virginia’s national title-winning time of 1:32.16.

While Virginia won the NCAA title and broke the meet record with that time, however, Katharine Berkoff has an even faster split in the 50 backstroke for NC State with a 22.76. That made Berkoff the fastest woman in history in the 50 backstroke and marked the first time two women swam under 23 seconds in the same heat.

Walsh now holds three of the top five times in history in the 50-yard backstroke and also holds the 5th-fastest time in history

All-Time 50-Yard Backstroke Splits

  1. Maggie MacNeil – 22.52 (2023 SEC Championships)
  2. Gretchen Walsh – 22.65 (2023 ACC Championships)
  3. Katharine Berkoff – 22.76 (2022 NCAA Championships)
  4. Gretchen Walsh – 22.81 (2022 NCAA Championships)
  5. Gretchen Walsh – 22.82 (2022 ACC Championships)
  6. Maggie MacNeil – 23.02 (2021 Big Ten Champinships)
  7. Gretchen Walsh – (UVA v NC State, January 2022)

Gretchen Walsh was followed by her sister Alex Walsh with a 26.10 breaststroke split, Lexi Cuomo with a 22.49 on butterfly, and Kate Douglass closed with a 20.49 freestyle. The Virginia women broke the 1:31.81 NCAA record that Walsh, Cuomo, Douglass, and Alexis Wenger set at the 2022 ACC Championships.

The runners-up at 2023 ACCs were the NC State women with a 1:33.02 and third place went to Louisville with a 1:34.52.

After MacNeil’s 22.52 backstroke split, Hannah Womer swam a 27.87 breaststroke leg, Hannah Bellina hit a 24.12 butterfly leg, and Miaela De Villiers anchored with a 22.08. The Alabama women touched first at the 2023 SEC Championships with a 1:34.20.

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Awsi Dooger
3 months ago

MacNeil would have been even faster upon verbal abuse

3 months ago

Imagine if Maggie was 6’

3 months ago

MacNeil is going to have a lot of edge at NCAA’s. Will have a lot less relay swims than her competitors

3 months ago

So elite! So crazy how fast women’s backstroke has gotten these past 2 years. Berkoff 48.6, Walsh 49.0, Smith 49.1 in the 100, now we have 22.5 in the 50, after swimming a 23 a few years ago was unheard of! Also in LC, Smith broke the WR in 2019, becoming the first woman to go under 58. Now, by the time 2021 came, there are now three and Smith’s 57,5 isn’t even the WR anymore!

Reply to  Eli
3 months ago

When is backstroke not backstroke? When it’s a sc 50 and actually a contest of who has the best underwaters.

Sherry Smit
3 months ago


Reply to  Sherry Smit
3 months ago

Language Ms. Sherry