Two-time NCAA qualifier Jack Walker has made a mid-season departure from the University of Virginia’s roster. Neither the school nor Walker provided any additional information as to the reason for Walker leaving the team.
Walker told SwimSwam that he “has nothing but love for the team and staff” and said that it would be fair to consider him retired from the sport. He swam throughout the fall for Cavaliers, competing in several dual meets and at the Tennessee Invite in November.
Prior to coming to the University of Virginia, Walker grew up in North Carolin and swam for SwimMAC Carolina. He was the first “big-time” male recruit for Virginia head coach Todd DeSorbo when he and the rest of the current staff took over the Cavaliers’ program in the summer of 2017.
When Walker made his verbal commitment as a high school junior, he projected as the type of swimmer who could make an impact on all three free relays, boasting lifetime bests of 20.10/43.52/1:33.74 at that point. We named him the #3 recruit in the high school class of 2019. However, he didn’t improve all that much in the shorter freestyles in his final two years of high school, and that trend continued into college.
Instead, upon arriving in Charlottesville, Walker focused on the longer two freestyle events. At the 2020 ACC Championships, he finished 3rd in the 500 free with a time of 4:11, easily qualifying for NCAAs in that event. That time is good enough to make the A-final at NCAAs, but the 2020 edition was ultimately canceled due to then-burgeoning Covid pandemic.
Last season, Walker went 4:13.45 at ACCs, then finished 24th at NCAAs with a time of 4:15.87 Both years he also qualified in the 1650, with his best of time of 14:56.26 coming from the 2021 ACCs championships. He nearly matched that time a month later at NCAAs, finishing 19th with a 14:56.43.
Losing Walker could be a big blow for the Cavaliers’ placing at ACCs. He scored 57 points in 2020 and 66 points in 2021. Last year, Virginia finished 154 points behind intrastate rivals Virginia Tech after finishing second the year before. Currently, the Swimulator has Virginia Tech, UVA, Florida State, and Georgia Tech all projected to score within 40 points of each at next month’s ACCs Championships, although that does not take into account diving.
Without Walker, Virginia will be looking for the rest of its distance crew to step up. Last season at ACCs, Jack Wright (9th) and Justin Grender (23rd) scored in the 500, while Tanner Herring added points with a 17th-place effort in the 1650. Freshman Peter Thompson’s lifetime best of 4:25.96 in the 500 is currently outside of ACC scoring range, but his 1650 best of 15:17.66 (from 2018) would have placed 14th at ACCs last year.
The Cavalier men have lost more-than-one conference-impact swimmers at midseason over the last few years. ACC or NCAA-impact names like John Whiteside, Lewis Burras, Robby Giller, and Cooper Wozencraft have all dropped off UVA’s roster for one reason or another in the middle of the season in recent years.
The Cavaliers have completed their dual meet competitions for the season, but are scheduled to host the Cavalier Invite February 4th-6th before traveling to Atlanta for the combined gender ACC Championships February 15th-19th.