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Virginia wins four gold medals at Phillips 66 National Championships

The Cavaliers earned at least one top-three finish every night

<p>Junior Matt King won two national championships in the freestyle sprints across the five days of competition.</p>

Junior Matt King won two national championships in the freestyle sprints across the five days of competition.

Virginia men’s and women’s swimming and diving sent 20 swimmers to compete in the 2022 Phillips 66 National Championships, which took place Tuesday through Saturday. Both collegiate and professional athletes from across the country traveled to the William Wollett Jr. Aquatics Center in Irvine, Calif. to compete against the nation’s best.

The Cavaliers had a number of strong performances across the five days of competition, earning at least one top-three finish every night, including a total of four gold medals.

Junior Matt King kicked off a big week for both himself and the Cavaliers by tying for first in the men’s 100-meter freestyle on the meet’s opening night. Finishing with a time of 48.44, King tied with 2020 Olympian Zach Apple and set a Virginia long course record.

Sophomore Gretchen Walsh also turned in a stellar performance Tuesday night, earning a silver medal in the women’s 100-meter freestyle with a program record time of 53.86.

Highlighting the second day of the meet was sophomore Jack Aikins’ gold medal in the men’s 200-meter backstroke. His time of 1:57.52 earned him the win and the title of United States National Champion — the second for the men’s side, marking the first time in school history that has happened.

The Virginia women put together a phenomenal showing on day two of the meet, winning four medals across three events. Incoming freshman Claire Tuggle kicked off the night with a third-place finish in the 200-meter freestyle, finishing with a time of 1:58.34.

The Cavaliers took home two medals in the 200-meter breaststroke as junior Anna Keating and junior Ella Nelson earned silver and bronze, respectively. Keating’s time of 2:25.82 was just .47 seconds behind first place.

The final top-three finish of the night came in the 200-meter backstroke from sophomore Reilly Tiltman, who’s personal-best time of 2:09.61 set a program record.

Following a silver medal finish Tuesday, Walsh broke through to the top two days later with a win in the 100-meter butterfly. The victory marked the third consecutive day with a gold medal to open the meet for the Cavaliers.

While Walsh’s performance was the only podium finish of the night for Virginia, several other Cavaliers turned in strong showings. Namely, Nelson finished fifth in the women’s 400-meter individual medley with a career-best time of 4:43.84.

Friday was a relatively quiet night for Virginia, as this was the only night in the competition the Cavaliers did not earn a first-place finish. However, Aikins placed third in the 100-meter backstroke with a time of 53.75 to earn his second medal of the week.

Also, Walsh and Tuggle both continued their strong weeks with a pair of strong performances.

Walsh posted a time of 1:00.03 to finish fifth in the 100-meter backstroke. Her preliminary time of 59.80 set a program record, while Tuggle’s time of 4:11.50 in the 400-meter freestyle placed her fifth in the event.

Just as he started, King capped off an incredible week with his second national title, this time in the 50-meter freestyle Saturday. With a time of 21.83, King set another program record, improving upon the one he set in the prelims.

Walsh captured her third medal of the week, winning a silver medal in the 50-meter freestyle with a time of 24.47, another Cavalier record. Incoming freshman Maxine Parker swam a 25.05 in the same event to finish fifth, three spots behind her teammate.

Nelson and incoming freshman Zoe Skirboll finished fifth with a time of 2:12.87 and seventh with a time of 2:14.56 in the 200-meter individual medley, respectively.

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