Disclaimer: Swim of the Week is not meant to be a conclusive selection of the best overall swim of the week, but rather one Featured Swim to be explored in deeper detail. The Swim of the Week is an opportunity to take a closer look at the context of one of the many fast swims this week, perhaps a swim that slipped through the cracks as others grabbed the headlines, or a race we didn’t get to examine as closely in the flood of weekly meets.
Last weekend’s opening round of NCAA invites saw a number of standout performances from international freshman.
Both swimmers were already well-known commodities before entering college, with Minakov winning an individual silver medal at the 2019 World Championships in the men’s 100 butterfly, while Marchand was a finalist in the men’s 400 IM at the Tokyo Olympic Games (placing sixth).
But one international first-year that raised some eyebrows with her performances last weekend was Tennessee’s Ellen Walshe, an Irish native that really made her presence felt at the Vols’ home invite in Knoxville.
Walshe’s highlight came in the women’s 100 fly, where she became the second-fastest freshman of all-time en route to winning in a time of 50.24.
Only Michigan’s Maggie MacNeil, who is now the fastest swimmer of all-time, has been faster in her first year of college in 49.59, and Walshe still has the SEC and NCAA Championships to come.
Walshe’s time was also faster than what Torri Huske, the #1 ranked domestic recruit in this year’s freshman class, swam at the NC State Invite (50.30). Huske notably became the American Record holder in the long course version of the women’s 100 fly this summer, placing fourth at the Olympic Games, .01 outside of a medal. While it can’t be understated just how different LCM and SCY are, Walshe was 24th at the Games, more than three and a half seconds slower than Huske.
All that really tells us is how well Walshe has transitioned over to yards. With one more round of college invites still to come, including MacNeil racing in Minnesota, Walshe leads the NCAA in the 100 fly this season, with Huske the only swimmer within a second of her. It’s important to note that Virginia’s Kate Douglass, last season’s NCAA runner-up, didn’t race the event at the Tennessee Invite, but still, Walshe has been on fire. And not just in the 100 fly.
Walshe also placed second to Douglass in the women’s 200 IM (1:54.77), took second to UVA’s Alex Walsh in the 200 fly (1:53.96), and even put up the top time of the 400 IM prelims in 4:06.07 before scratching the final.
The 20-year-old Walshe also proved she can be a valuable relay asset, leading off Tennessee’s ‘B’ 800 free relay in 1:44.63, the second-fastest split in the entire field, including those that had exchanges, and a time that would’ve won the individual 200 free at the invite.
The Dublin native added relay splits of 22.90 and 51.08 in the 50 and 100 fly, along with a 48.70 lead-off on the 400 free relay.
The ‘Swim of the Week’ honor goes to Walshe’s 100 fly, but her performance as a whole last weekend was truly a breakout, and it will be exciting to see what she can do come February and March.