2023 NCAA Division I Women’s Championship: Day 1 Finals Live Recap



At long last, the day has finally arrived. There’s no more need for a countdown–the 2023 Division I Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships kick off today. As always (since 2022), we’re kicking things off with timed finals of the 200 medley and 800 freestyle relay.

The Virginia women are seeded first in four out of the five relays, including the 200 medley. At ACCs, they lowered their own NCAA, American, and U.S Open records with a blistering 1:31.73. They’ll get another chance to lower their own record in the first event of these championships, and will likely run the same lineup of Gretchen Walsh, Alex Walsh, Lexi Cuomoand Kate Douglass.

They have a trickier lineup decision for the second relay of the session, the 800 freestyle relay. It’s Stanford with the top seed in that relay, and they’ve won four of the last national titles. The Cardinal have some choices to make as well, as they notably left defending 200 free national champion Taylor Ruck off this relay at PAC-12s, opting to use her on the 200 medley relay and Torri Huske here.

We expect that Virginia will have the runner-up spot locked down, but it should be a fight between the Longhorns, Gators, and Cardinals for the third step on the podium.


  • NCAA Record: 1:31.73, Virginia (G. Walsh, A. Walsh , A. Cuomo, K. Douglass) — 2023
  • Meet Record: 1:32.16, Virginia (G. Walsh, A. Wenger, A. Cuomo, K. Douglass) — 2022
  • American Record: 1:31.73, Virginia (G. Walsh, A. Walsh, A. Cuomo, K. Douglass) — 2023
  • US Open Record: 1:31.73, Virginia (G. Walsh, A. Walsh, A. Cuomo, K. Douglass) — 2023
  • Pool Record: 1:33.19, Virginia (C. Gmelich, A. Wenger, K. Douglass, M. Hill) — 2019
  • 2022 Champion: Virginia (G. Walsh, A. Wenger, A. Cuomo, K. Douglass) — 1:32.16

Top 8:

  1. Virginia (G. Walsh, A. Walsh, A. Cuomo, K Douglass) – 1:31.51
  2. NC State (K. Berkoff, H. MacCausland, K. Alons, A. Arens) – 1:32.42
  3. Texas (O. Bray, A. Elendt, E. Sticklen, G. Cooper) – 1:33.22
  4. Ohio State – 1:33.93
  5. Louisville – 1:34.37
  6. Cal – 1:34.75
  7. Alabama – 1:34.83
  8. UNC – Chapel Hill – 1:35.01

They’ve done it again. The Virginia squad of Gretchen Walsh, Alex Walsh, Lexi Cuomoand Kate Douglass started the meet off with a bang, resetting the NCAA, American, and U.S. Open records that they set just last month at ACCs. G. Walsh led off in 22.77, then handed things off to her older sister Alex, who split 26.30 on breaststroke. Cuomo has been a key part of this relay for a long time, and she nearly broke 22 seconds with a 22.10 fly split. She pulled Virginia back to just a hundredth behind NC State with a 50 to go. Then, Douglass brought them home with a blistering 20.34 improving on her fastest split of 20.49 to become the second-fastest performer in a flying 50 free.

Despite taking down their record by .22 seconds, the Cavaliers actually weren’t leading the race at the halfway point. It was the NC State Wolfpack who were leading the final heat, thanks to great swims by Katharine Berkoff (22.88) and Heather MacCausland (25.69). That’s a big improvement for her from ACCs, where she split 26.40. Kylee Alons added from her ACCs split with a 22.59 on fly, and Abby Arens anchored in 21.26. Though Virginia caught them on the fly leg, NC State also finished under the old pool record and took six-tenths off their season-best.

Texas grabbed bronze, moving up from their fifth-place finish in 2022. Olivia Bray opened for them with a 23.72, turning things over to Anna Elendt who dropped a massive 25.54 breaststroke split. Emma Sticklen split 22.32 on fly, and Grace Cooper split 21.64 on free.

Out of heat 2, Cal’s squad of Isabelle Stadden (23.57), Jade Neser (26.67), Mia Kragh (22.77), and Emma Davidson (21.74) swam 1:34.75 to grab sixth place. They dropped .65 seconds from their season-best, pulling ahead of Stanford and Tennessee on the breaststroke leg to take the lead after Stanford’s Claire Curzan opened with a 23.26 backstroke leg.

After finishing 12th last year, UNC’s team of Greer Pattison (24.19), Skyler Smith (26.37), Ellie VanNote (23.46) and Grace Countie (20.99) leapt up to grab eighth place. They swam 1:35.01, slower than the 1:34.70 they clocked at ACCs. Their time here would have only moved them up to 11th last year.

Notably, Florida’s relay was disqualified for an early exchange. They would have placed ninth.


  • NCAA Record: 6:45.91, Stanford (S. Manuel, L. Neal, E. Eastin, K. Ledecky) — 2017
  • Meet Record: 6:45.91, Stanford (S. Manuel, L. Neal, E. Eastin, K. Ledecky) — 2017
  • American Record: 6:45.91, Stanford (S. Manuel, L. Neal, E. Eastin, K. Ledecky) — 2017
  • US Open Record: 6:45.91, Stanford (S. Manuel, L. Neal, E. Eastin, K. Ledecky) — 2017
  • Pool Record: 6:56.81, Tennessee (J. Mrozinski, E. Walshe, G. Rothrock, T. Pintar) — 2022
  • 2022 Champion: Stanford (T. Huske, T. Ruck, R. Smith, B. Forde) — 6:48.30

Top 8:

  1. Virginia (A. Canny, A. Walsh, R. Tiltmann, M. Nelson) – 6:49.82
  2. Stanford (T. Huske, T. Ruck, L. Nordmann, K. Wilson) – 6:50.77
  3. Texas (K. Pash, O. Bray, K. Leibel, E. Sullivan) – 6:55.55
  4. Cal – 6:57.08
  5. Tennessee – 6:57.49
  6. Florida – 6:57.72
  7. Indiana – 6:59.01
  8. Georgia – 6:59.12

After winning this relay in 2021, Virginia was second to Stanford last year–the only relay that they didn’t win on their way to repeating as NCAA team champions. Now, they’ve taken the title back; somewhat shocking Stanford who had won four of the last five titles. Freshman Aimee Canny posted a personal best of 1:42.34, keeping Virginia close to Stanford as Torri Huske posted the fastest lead-off with a 1:42.28.

Then, in her second swim of the evening, A. Walsh dropped a 1:41.18, the fastest split in the field. She handed the lead Reilly Tiltmann, who extended it with a 1:43.38. Senior Ella Nelson split 1:42.92, which held off Stanford’s anchor, freshman Kayla Wilson (1:42.22). Virginia dropped 5.33 seconds from their seed time, earning first in a pool record time of 6:49.82.

Stanford touched .95 seconds behind in 6:50.77. Along with Huske and Wilson’s splits, they got a 1:42.23 split from defending NCAA champion Taylor Ruck, who they left off this relay at PAC-12s. Their third leg was sophomore Lillie Nordmann, who clocked 1:44.04. Huske and Ruck are the only two who were on this NCAA relay last year, and both were faster then, with Huske leading off in 1:41.93 and Ruck splitting 1:40.49.

For the second race in a row, Texas took third. Kelly Pash led off in 1:43.08, then Olivia Bray split 1:43.26. Kyla Leibel posted 1:44.63, and Erica Sullivan brought them home in 1:44.58.

Cal continued their strong showing here in the first session with a fourth place finish. Their quartet of Mia Motekaitis (1:44.10), Ayla Spitz (1:43.84), Rachel Klinker (1:44.82), and Leah Polonsky combined for 6:57.08, a season best by over a second and a half.

There was an excellent race in heat 2 between Georgia, Wisconsin, Kentucky, and Ohio State. Flipping sixth with about 150-yards to go, Zoie Hartman pulled Georgia back into the race with a huge 1:42.50. She caught Wisconsin’s Blair Stoneburg and it came down to the touch between them, with Hartman taking the win for Georgia in 6:59.12, one-hundredth ahead of Stoneburg and the Badgers. For their part, the Badgers had a strong relay themselves, with Phoebe Bacon splitting 1:44.00 and Stoneburg anchoring in 1:43.95.

Florida opted to not use Emma Weyant on their relay, instead going with a quartet of Ekaterina Nikonova (1:43.83), Talia Bates (1:44.38), Tylor Mathieu (1:45.98), and Micayla Cronk (1:43.51). They added about six-tenths from their SEC-winning time, with a 6:57.72 but still grabbed sixth-place and began to do damage control after DQ-ing their 200 medley relay.

Auburn finished 16th in a season-best 7:04.82, grabbing two points to get on the scoreboard. It’s a big finish for them as they didn’t score any points last year.

Top 10 Teams Thru Day 1

  1. Virginia – 80
  2. Texas – 64
  3. Cal – 56
  4. Stanford – 52
  5. NC State – 44
  6. Tennessee/Louisville – 40
  7. (tie)
  8. Ohio State – 38
  9. Indiana – 34
  10. Georgia – 30

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Abby Lee Miller
10 days ago

Out of any team I could pick to be on I’m choosing NC State. Those girls are fast but they also look like they have a ton of fun. Let’s go pack.

11 days ago

Well, well, well. DeSorbo’s playing chess. After ACC, somebody posted that Aimee Canny will win NCs. Now I see it. Pash didn’t look as strong as I expected. Wonder what that means for her 200 fly. A. Walsh looked good, splitting .8 faster than last year. And clash of the titans tomorrow.

Octavio Gupta
11 days ago

Walsh looked like she dove in kind of steep on the medley, may explain the early pullout.

11 days ago

Go Bears! Keep it rolling, awesome night to start!

11 days ago

Timed finals relays are really not as entertaining

Reply to  Flyer
11 days ago

I disagree. And you save a lot of rather meaningless prelim swims over the course of the meet, leading to faster times in individual events.

Reply to  Flyer
11 days ago

Hard disagree. Love the opening night

Reply to  Coachymccoachface
11 days ago

So why don’t we just do away with prelims for the individuals too?

Reply to  Flyer
11 days ago

Just look at the 200 MR. Scoring heats lined up almost perfectly to heat seeding. There’s no more pointless race than relay prelims at NCAA.

It favors deeper teams, makes individual swimming slower, and changes nothing.

Not-so-Silent Observer
Reply to  Flyer
11 days ago

Agreed. I really liked what prelims relays required of the teams. You had either two options as a coach – use depth to allow for rested swims at finals, or need to train up the endurance and recovery capacity of your top athletes so they could swim prelims and finals.

There was also the – go all out for prelims, guarantee a finals placement in top8 and then see what happens in finals.

Timed finals removes that complexity with strategy.

Reply to  Not-so-Silent Observer
11 days ago

that just favors deeper teams at what is already being called a lopsided landscape. UVA rests Walsh and Douglass while Grace Countie and Gabi Albiero double up. Does that make for a more exciting meet?

Not-so-Silent Observer
Reply to  anon
11 days ago

Caleb Dressel used to have to swim prelims and finals.
Missy Franklin, prelims and finals,
Ryan lochte, beisel, Coughlin, etc etc.

If athletes have done it before, athletes can do it now. It actually creates for a more team driven effort to have prelims/finals. Where you need to utilize more swimmers on the team to achieve success.

Timed finals allows for a smaller core of 2-5 swimmers to carry an entire team.

Last edited 11 days ago by Not-so-Silent Observer
Reply to  Not-so-Silent Observer
11 days ago

It’s exactly the opposite of what you’re saying. What team with a “small core” of 2-5 swimmers has an advantage in this meet because of relays?

The only teams with the luxury of resting swimmers in prelims are the top 3. Prelim relays would not benefit a single “smaller” team at this meet.

Edit: When Stanford last won all 5 relays they did so with changed lineups, less double swims, and a chance to “tryout” for spots. the “2-5 swimmer” teams had to stick with one lineup and it disadvantaged the team.

Last edited 11 days ago by anon
Octavio Gupta
Reply to  Flyer
10 days ago


11 days ago

Nice swim for Tennessee

11 days ago

Stanford missing a taper due to horrible coaching, now where have i seen this before…

… oh wait, it happens every year

Reply to  Andrew
11 days ago

No they didn’t rest of pac 12 though. /s

11 days ago

UVA with a six (6) point cushion (over the projections) after Day 1 leaves margin for error the next three (3) nights.

Octavio Gupta
Reply to  Weinstein-Smith-Ledecky-Sims
10 days ago

Shut up

About Sophie Kaufman

Sophie Kaufman

Sophie grew up in Boston, Massachusetts, which means yes, she does root for the Bruins, but try not to hold that against her. At 9, she joined her local club team because her best friend convinced her it would be fun. Shoulder surgery ended her competitive swimming days long ago, …

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