Virginia’s Aimee Canny Hangs with Torri Huske as Cavs Upset Stanford in 800 FR Relay



KNOXVILLE — Less than three months after arriving at the University of Virginia from South Africa, freshman Aimee Canny stepped up to the blocks leading off the Cavaliers’ 800-yard freestyle relay on Wednesday night. It was her first-ever race at the NCAA Championships, and she was matched up against Stanford world champion and Olympic medalist Torri Huske on the opening leg.

The 19-year-old Canny wasn’t intimidated, though. She knew that no matter what happened, her team had her back. Buoyed by a nothing-to-lose mentality instilled by her teammates, Canny delivered a personal-best 1:42.34 — just .06 seconds behind Huske — to set the tone for Virginia’s surprising victory over the Cardinal that closed out the meet’s opening session.

“I didn’t know what I was doing when I came into this race,” Canny told media after taking .28 seconds off her previous best from last month’s ACC Championships. “But I knew that I had them supporting me, and I kind of just went in with the attitude of the whole team supporting me. It was such a nice environment to start my NCAA career.

“I haven’t experienced anything like this before,” she said in a video released Tuesday by Virginia Sports TV. “I didn’t realize how big of a part that team plays in this. It’s like you want to do better for them.”

Canny, junior Alex Walsh (1:41.18), sophomore Reilly Tiltmann (1:43.38), and senior Ella Nelson (1:42.92) reached the wall in 6:49.82, nearly a full second ahead of Stanford (6:50.77). The Cardinal clung to a slim lead after Huske’s opening leg until Walsh overtook Taylor Ruck (1:42.23) and handed her teammates a .99-second lead at the midway point. Stanford sophomore Lillie Nordmann couldn’t close the gap on Stanford’s third leg with a 1:44.04, and by the time Kayla Wilson (1:42.22) got in the water against Nelson, the deficit was too big to overcome.

“I was going last and I had been giving Aimee and Alex pep talks — and Reilly — literally for the past three days like, ‘You guys, you have to get a really, really big lead,” Nelson laughed. “I wasn’t losing any confidence in myself, but just knew it was going to be close at the end and we were racing all four of the top NCAA 200 freestylers, too. So I knew it was going to be close.

“But Aimee’s just such a boss at it,” Nelson added. “She slayed it. She’s just come into UVA and dominated every single part of college swimming. So that was no surprise to see her out there with the big dogs, and just killing it.”

“The way she trains, she’s just a great person, great personality, great attitude, she does whatever we ask her to do,” Virginia head coach Todd DeSorbo said of Canny. “It’s just like a shot of adrenaline and a boost for everybody. Who knows what she’s going to do a year, two years, three years from now — she’s going to keep getting better.”

The clear favorites in every other relay except the 800 free relay, Virginia’s quartet used its rare underdog status as fuel for a fiery upset. It was the only relay the Cavs lost last year after being the only one they won in 2021.

“I think honestly that relay was a lot of fun for us, especially because we were kind of the underdogs,” Walsh said. “Todd [DeSorbo] was like, ‘We’re not expected to win, just give it all you got.’ That was a lot of motivation for us, but also the vibes were so good.”

Walsh, who didn’t swim the 800 free relay at the ACC Championships last month, wasn’t sure if she was going to join the team until two weeks ago.

“All of us met with Todd individually to decide and we all wanted to send it, so the best option was to just really try to get ahead from the get-go,” Walsh said. “We strategically put me and Aimee first and second and strategically had (Tiltmann and Nelson) bringing up the back half. I saw Taylor [Ruck], and obviously she’s one of the greatest 200 freestylers ever, so I really wanted to stay with her, but I also knew that I wanted to give these two a lead going into the last two legs. So on that last 50, I just tried to give it all I had and it hurt. But we couldn’t be happier with the outcome. That was a big win for us.”

In This Story

Leave a Reply

Notify of

oldest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
16 days ago

Tbh, I don’t really see how this is an upset. Both UVA and Stanford have a ridiculous amount of talent but Meehan is terrible compared to Desorbo

HOO love
16 days ago


16 days ago

Too early but just for fun, are we thinking Canny anchors the medley or Canny? I’m thinking both will be on the 4×100 free since that seems like the best one to leave Alex off of

Reply to  jeff
16 days ago

4×50 seems better to leave Walsh off of, the 50 fr will show what shape Parker is in.

16 days ago

UNCanny. that was a dirty performance by UVA.

About Riley Overend

Riley is an associate editor interested in the stories taking place outside of the pool just as much as the drama between the lane lines. A 2019 graduate of Boston College, he arrived at SwimSwam in April of 2022 after three years as a sports reporter and sports editor at newspapers …

Read More »