Cavaliers impress at Nationals, four qualify for World Championships

By Harry Farley Correspondent

Photo: Swimming World

Several Cavaliers competed this past week at the US Phillips 66 Nationals hosted in Indianapolis, with Kate Douglass, Alex Walsh, Gretchen Walsh, and Maxine Parker all qualifying for the 2023 World Championships (Fukuoka, Japan, July 14-30). Virginia associate head coach Blair Bachman will also be joining Team USA in Japan.

Douglass lived on the podium the entire week, earning the High Point Award for the entire meet as she scored the most points of any swimmer. She won the 200 IM and 100 free, placed second in the 200 breaststroke, and placed third in both the 50 free and 100 fly.

Gretchen Walsh was arguably the swimmer of the meet as well, as she finished first in the 50 fly, third in the 100 free, second in the 100 fly, and second in the 50 free. Her performance in the 50 fly was an American and US Open record — the fastest ever by a US individual in the 50 fly. Her 100 fly and 50 free were also new UVA records.

Alex Walsh placed second in the 200 IM behind Douglass, as the duo again dominated in their marquee event and will look to bring home gold and silver in Japan as well. Walsh added an eighth-place finish in the 200 free and a second-place finish and personal best in the 400 IM.

Senior Noah Nichols narrowly missed out on qualification for the World Championships, as he placed third in both the 50 breaststroke and 100 breaststroke. He broke the Virginia records in both events, swimming a 27.30 in the 50 and a 59.40 in the 100.

Other Cavaliers had great performances as well, with plenty of UVA records being smashed and personal bests being set around the board.

Nichols broke the Virginia record in the 100 breaststroke and placed third overall, as he posted a 59.40.

Jack Aikins set a Virginia record in the 200 backstroke, swimming a 1:56.04 and securing a third-place finish.

Meanwhile, Reilly Tiltmann also broke the 200 backstroke record for the women, going a 2:08.65 and finishing sixth.

And Emma Weber broke the Virginia record in the 50 breaststroke, going a 30.92 in prelims and finishing eighth in the A-Final at night.

Other notable personal bests came from Abby Harter (200 IM), Noah Nichols (200 breast), Emma Weber (100 and 200 breast), Braeden Haughey (200 back), Reilly Tiltmann (100 back) and Abby Harter (200 IM).

The dominance from Douglass, the Walsh Sisters, and Parker continues to be simply staggering. On the first day of the meet, Gretchen Walsh set a new UVA record in the 100 freestyle in prelims in the morning, recording a blistering time of 53.64.

Yet just a couple heats later, Douglass broke Walsh’s record by eclipsing 53 seconds and going 52.98. Then in the A-Final at night, Douglass proceeded to break her own record from the morning and go a 52.57 en route to a first-place finish. That’s three separate instances of the record being broken in the same day.

As a team, Virginia had 24 different A-Final swims from 11 swimmers. The UVA performance of the meet was the women’s 100 freestyle A-Final, as Douglass, Gretchen Walsh, and Parker finished first-third-sixth, respectively.

Virginia’s superstar swimmers will look to represent their country and try to improve again on outstanding performances later this summer in Japan.