SwimSwam Pulse: 75% Pick Gretchen Walsh As Most Impressive Female Freshman

SwimSwam Pulse is a recurring feature tracking and analyzing the results of our periodic A3 Performance Polls. You can cast your vote in our newest poll on the SwimSwam homepage, about halfway down the page on the right side, or you can find the poll embedded at the bottom of this post.

Our most recent poll asked SwimSwam readers which female freshman swimmer has impressed you the most so far in the NCAA season:


Question: Which female freshman swimmer has impressed you the most so far early on in the NCAA season?

Gretchen Walsh was the clear number one choice with more than 75 percent of the votes, which checks out given that she has been a highly-touted NCAA prospect for years and came out guns blazing in her first few meets.

It was at the beginning of October when Walsh immediately made her presence felt in college swimming, competing at the University of Virginia’s Orange vs Blue intrasquad meet in Charlottesville.

The meet consisted of some off-distance events, but it did feature the 50 freestyle, where Walsh threw down a time of 21.63—taking second to reigning NCAA champ Kate Douglass (21.48)—in what was the fifth-fastest swim of her career and just .02 shy of her quickest showing in 2021.

That time from Walsh, done on October 2, would’ve been sixth in the 2021 NCAA final.

Walsh and Douglass then anchored their respective class mixed medley relays with sub-21 relay splits, Walsh clocking 20.95.

The Cavaliers then travelled to Berkeley to take on the University of California, where Walsh continued her hot start to the season by winning the women’s 100 free (48.02) and 100 back (51.15) while also leading off the 200 free relay in 21.88 and the 200 medley in 23.69.

Both backstroke times are new lifetime bests, and the 100 free time ranks her first in the NCAA this season.

The other options were Letitia Sim, who had a standout performance for Michigan at the SMU Classic, and Marlene Kahler, who won the women’s 500 and 1650 free at the USC Invitational in her Trojan debut two weeks ago.

Sim set new lifetime bests in the 200 breast (2:09.08) and 200 IM (1:57.16), just missed one in the 100 breast (59.09), and currently ranks first in the NCAA in the 200 breast and third in both the 100 breast and 200 IM.

Kahler’s times of 4:43.94 in the 500 and 16:22.30 in the 1650 rank first in the country this season, and the 500 is less than a second off of what it took to score at NCAAs in 2021.

Sim garnered just under 18 percent of votes, while Kahler received 6.4 percent.

Below, vote in our new A3 Performance Pollwhich asks: Would you support ISL athletes holding out from competing in the playoffs if they haven’t been fully paid for last season?

Would you support ISL athletes holding out from competing in the playoffs if they haven't been fully paid for last season?

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A3 Performance is an independently-owned, performance swimwear company built on a passion for swimming, athletes, and athletic performance. We encourage swimmers to swim better and faster at all ages and levels, from beginners to Olympians.  Driven by a genuine leader and devoted staff that are passionate about swimming and service, A3 Performance strives to inspire and enrich the sport of swimming with innovative and impactful products that motivate swimmers to be their very best – an A3 Performer.

The A3 Performance Poll is courtesy of A3 Performance, a SwimSwam partner.

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Roll Tide 2020
1 year ago

Haleigh Gaulbrith

I win, you lose
1 year ago

This was never really a fair poll… sub-21 relay split and a 23.69 50 back? These are in the running for all-time most impressive early-season freshman swims- male or female.

1 year ago

I voted for Sim, not because Walsh is not extremely impressive. But Walsh is doing as expected. Sim already has lifetime bests very early in the season. The is VERY impressive. Reminded me of Maggie MacNeil who set the varsity record the first time she swam the 100 fly.

About James Sutherland

James Sutherland

James swam five years at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, specializing in the 200 free, back and IM. He finished up his collegiate swimming career in 2018, graduating with a bachelor's degree in economics. In 2019 he completed his graduate degree in sports journalism. Prior to going to Laurentian, James swam …

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