SwimSwam Pulse: 81.4% Think Gretchen Walsh’s NCAA Performance Surpassed Kate Douglass’ 2023

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.

Our most recent poll asked SwimSwam readers if Gretchen Walsh‘s NCAA Championship campaign surpassed Kate Douglass‘ from last year:

Question: Who had the better NCAA Championship performance?


Kate Douglass left an indelible mark on NCAA history upon her graduation at the end of the 2022-23 season, wrapping up her career with seven titles and two runner-up finishes across her nine opportunities to race individually at the national championships.

Her 2023 performance specifically was regarded the best in history, as she smashed the NCAA, U.S. Open and American Records en route to wins in the 100 fly (48.46), 200 breast (2:01.29) and 200 IM (1:48.37) while pacing the Virginia Cavaliers to relay titles in all four she raced in.

However, it only took one season before we saw a championship performance that was arguably better.

Gretchen Walsh, Douglass’ teammate at UVA, has been a star since her freshman season in 2021-22, and has taken things to a new level each year.

The record swims were plentiful for Walsh throughout 2023-24, and things came to a head at NCAAs.

She made history with NCAA, U.S. Open and American Record swims in the 50 free (20.37), 100 free (44.83) and 100 fly (47.42), and like Douglass, was a driving force behind four UVA relay wins. Walsh also set a new standard in the 50 back leading off the 200 medley relay (22.10), and neared her record of 48.10 in the 100 back leading off the 400 medley relay in 48.26.

Douglass vs Walsh – NCAA Performances

Douglass, 2023 G. Walsh, 2024
50 free relay split – 20.34 50 back (200 MR) – 22.10*
200 IM – 1:48.37* 50 free – 20.41** / 20.37*
50 free (200 FR) – 21.01 50 free relay split – 20.23
100 fly – 48.46* 100 fly – 47.42*
100 fly relay split – 48.94 100 back (400 MR) – 48.26
200 breast – 2:01.29* 100 free – 44.83*
100 free (400 FR) – 46.37 100 free relay split – 45.17*

*Fastest in history
**Prelim swim–fastest in history before final

Our latest poll asked SwimSwam readers who had a better NCAA Championship performance.

The response was overwhelmingly in favor of Walsh, and even if recency bias played a role, it’s hard to argue with.

Looking solely at the individual performances, Douglass shattered one record, going 1:48.37 in the 200 IM to become the first swimmer sub-1:50, and while her record swims in the 100 fly and 200 breast were significant, there wasn’t any new ground broken as she had already been 2:01 and 48.

Walsh, on the other hand, busted through two barriers in her performances, becoming the first swimmer sub-48 in the 100 fly with a mind-boggling 47.42—making her more than one second faster than the next-best swimmer in history, Douglass—and then taking out the 45-second marker in the 100 free in 44.83.

Walsh also reset the 50 free record in both prelims and finals, and put up the fastest times ever in two of her relay swims (50 back lead-off and 100 free rolling), while Douglass didn’t have any #1 all-time relay showings (though her 50 free leg in the 200 medley was #2 at the time).

With that, it checks out that Walsh garnered 81.4% of the votes, though Douglass’ versatility (who else can win national titles in the 50 free, 200 breast, 100 fly and 200 IM?) should also get some credit.

Regardless of who you voted for, it will probably be years before we truly appreciate how good Douglass and the Walsh sisters were during their NCAA careers.

Below, vote in our new A3 Performance Pollwhich asks: How long before Texas is an NCAA contender again?

How long will it take Bob Bowman to rebuild the Texas men into a top two team at NCAAs?

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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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1 month ago

For me, it’s the 100 fly performance that tipped my cap to Gretchen. I did not expect her to go that far under 48 and that much faster than anyone else in history, which happened to be Kate’s performance from the year prior that already seemed crazy. Also, to me it’s the room for improvement: I couldn’t picture KD going much faster in the 200 IM that she did. For Gretchen, I can still somehow see her having mind-boggling performances next year (:46 100 fly, :47-mid 100 back, maybe :44 low 100 free, 1:39 200 free, plus maybe a random 1:50 200 IM and a 1:48 200 back).

1 month ago

Tough call. Gretchen Walsh probably had a better overall meet this season, but I still think Kate Douglass’ 200 IM was the greatest thing I saw at last year’s or this year’s women’s NCAAs.

Reply to  Jonathan
1 month ago

Not Gretchen’s 100 fly?

1 month ago

as gretchen walsh swam 1.40.23 lead off on 800 relay at ACC, the 200 free record could go to her next year!
and with a 59.25 100 breast from a dual meet, the 200IM record could also be hers next!

Reply to  Yswam
1 month ago

She might break 1.50 if fully tapered but I highly doubt she could set the record.

1 month ago

Why one has to be greater than the other? Can’t we just agree that both performances were great?

Reply to  Tomek
1 month ago

This. Both athletes had absolute epic performances at their respective NCAA meets.

Reply to  PBJSwimming
1 month ago

This is why swimming is boring, thats like the superbowl ending and someone saying well can’t we agree they both did great? Maybe they did, but one was better. This isn’t knocking KD, KD is still great. Just because one is better doesn’t take anything away from the other

1 month ago

Can’t wait to see which DeSorbo swimmer tops these two performances next year! Walsh (or Walshx2?), Curzan? Hayes? Nocentini? another in the great UVA recruiting class? and I don’t know if its accurate, but someone told me that Douglas could be eligible for a last Covid year post the Olympics. After the last two years, nothing will surprise me.

Reply to  Wahooswimfan
1 month ago

I’ve got the feeling somewhere that it needs to be consecutive. Can’t step away from college athletics, unless it’s a redshirt, and return to use that Covid year.

Ranger Coach
Reply to  RealSlimThomas
1 month ago

Regan Smith stepped away, turned pro, and then is (allegedly; I’ll believe it when she is on a roster somewhere) coming back. Her case is not a COVID year, so I’m not sure if that makes a difference.

1 month ago

Hot take, I’m fully convinced GW could break KD’s 200 IM NCAA record if she swam it tapered.

Max Hardie
1 month ago

Swimming is LCM, Douglass has had success there, Walsh not yet. Hopefully we see her shine in trials and eventually Olympic Games, but we’ll have to wait a few months.

Reply to  Max Hardie
1 month ago

Medals at worlds is success, like it or not. Yes, Walsh is probably far better at SCY than LCM, but you can’t discount her LCM achievements just because you’re biased against SCY swimmers.

IU Swammer
Reply to  Max Hardie
1 month ago

The poll was explicitly about performance at the NCAA championships, so like it or not, LCM performance is utterly irrelevant.

Aragon Son of Arathorne
1 month ago

Both are spectacular but this year, it really doesn’t matter. This is an Olympic year. That trumps NCAA’s by a landslide. Hopefully Gretchen can translate this success straight to the big pool.

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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