By Graham Sweeney
In the 10 years that Justin Ingram has coached the swim team at Collierville High School, he can’t remember a single male athlete getting a full scholarship to a Division I college.
That streak ended last week when senior Joshua Walsh signed a Letter of Intent to attend the University of Tennessee next fall.
“The fact that he is going to swim at such a major, SEC program makes it an even more noteworthy accomplishment,” Ingram said.
The Vols finished sixth at SEC Championships last season.
Walsh, who is captain of the CHS swim team and a standout member of the Memphis Thunder Aquatic Club, moved from Austin, Texas to Collierville four years ago.
He started swimming competitively one year before the move and said things started to click when he got to Collierville.
“I just exploded when I got here,” he said. “I fell in love with it.”
Upon his arrival, Walsh’s club and high school coaches were astonished by his talent, considering that he got a late start in the sport.
“One thing that is unique about Josh is that he started swimming competitively relatively late compared to most swimmers of his ability,” Ingram said. “I don’t think he started swimming club (year round competitive) until middle school. So, he is far from a finished product.”
Walsh, who’s strongest strokes are the freestyle and butterfly, began getting attention from Division I schools during his junior year when he competed at the Speedo Winter Junior National Championships in Seattle, Wash.
Soon after he received offers from the University of Georgia, Harvard University, North Carolina State and UT.
At the 2016 Tennessee High School Championships, Walsh finished runner up in the 200 freestyle (1:38.11) and tied for that spot in the 100 free (45.21).
He was 45.21 in the 100 and 1:38.11 in the 200 and split a 20.80 anchoring Collierville’s third place 200 free relay. He also split a 44.57 anchoring their third place 400 free relay.
Walsh shattered Olympian Gil Stovall’s 12-year Shelby County record earlier this year in the 200 free by almost two seconds. He now holds that record of 1:40.38.
While Walsh has always been involved in athletics (he played football before taking up competitive swimming), Walsh excels out of the pool as well.
He scored a 28 on his ACT, has a 3.8 grade-point average and is taking several Advanced Placement courses.
Noting that club swimmers only get around three weeks off a year, Walsh attends 10 practices a week and attributes his success to his work ethic, dedication to the sport and genetics.
Walsh’s parents were also established college athletes, with his mother playing basketball and his father on the wrestling team.
While at UT, Walsh plans to major in supply chain management and pursue competitive swimming as long as he can.