Unbeaten Virginia tops South Carolina in swim, dive
Teams use strong contributions from all classes to improve to 3-0 with commanding win against Gamecocks
Before the Virginia swim and dive team’s dual meet against South Carolina officially began Saturday morning, Olympic gold-medalist and former Cavalier Matt McLean swam a 100-yard freestyle time trial. The crowd in the stands and the swimmers by the pool cheered, urging on the current volunteer assistant coach. After the former Virginia star clocked in, this season’s Cavaliers showed they too deserve an enthusiastic reception. Virginia swept the Gamecocks — the women winning by a score of 161-124; the men by a 160-126 margin — as both squads improved to 3-0.
In the win, 16 Cavaliers combined to place first in 20 of the meet’s 32 events. The team’s dominance extended throughout the roster, from the veterans — seniors Tom Barrett, Lauren Perdue and Brady Fox won two races apiece — to newcomers like freshmen Courtney Bartholomew and Yannick Kaeser. Virginia’s across-the-board success to this point in the season is not lost on the more experienced Cavaliers.
“We lost a lot of big, big names with our fourth years last year, with David Karasek [and] Peter Geissinger leaving the team,” Barrett said. “But fortunately we had first years who were able to come in and step up to the challenge, and they’ve been great. They’ve been pushing us in training.”
Junior Rachel Naurath, who was named ACC Swimmer of the Week for her five individual wins and one relay victory in Virginia’s season-opening sweeps of Navy and Pittsburgh, sees the value in competitive practices against eager young stars.
“We are probably one of the hardest training teams in the NCAA, so we really go at it in practice … Racing our teammates in practice is really what makes us the team that we are,” Naurath said.
The Virginia women and men finished the diving events of the meet versus South Carolina — which were completed on Friday night and Saturday morning — trailing by scores of 12-20 and 9-26, respectively. South Carolina divers finished one-two in both three-meter diving events, and Gamecock senior Rylan Ridenour took first place in the men’s one-meter and three-meter events.
When the meet shifted to swimming, however, Virginia had a remarkable turnaround. The Cavaliers secured first and second place in each of the first five races, including the top four finishes in both 1,000 freestyle events.
Perdue and sophomore Ellen Williamson helped set the tone early. The two swam the second half of Virginia’s winning 200 medley relay team and finished one-two in the 200 freestyle. Williamson’s strong performance was just one example of the Cavaliers’ year-blind success — a team-wide effort nurtured by the support of Virginia’s more experienced swimmers.
“I mean absolutely there’s a ton of things we try to say [to the younger swimmers], like never be scared to race people in practice, never be scared to beat upperclassmen and just really preaching confidence,” Naurath said. “I think it’s tough coming from a situation where you’re big fish in a small pond at home and then coming into U.Va., where you’re not anymore. You’re a small fish in a massive pond.”
Against the Gamecocks, Cavaliers of all years contributed to the victory. For the women’s team, individual event winners included the senior Perdue; juniors Naurath and Emily Lloyd; sophomores Williamson, Shaun Casey and Kelly Offutt; and freshmen Bartholomew and Becca Corbett. The men’s individual event winners included seniors Barrett and Fox; juniors Jan Daniec, Parker Camp and Taylor Grey; sophomore David Ingraham; and freshman Kaeser.
In the losing effort, South Carolina nearly matched Virginia in the meet’s relay events. Virginia relay teams dominated early, securing one-two finishes in both 200 medley relays.
The Gamecocks countered in the meet’s last set of events, posting a one-two-three finish in the women’s 400 freestyle relay and a one-two result in the same event on the men’s side. As South Carolina junior Gerard Rodriguez propelled himself toward the finish of the men’s 400 freestyle relay, the Virginia swimmers in his rearview mirror, his teammates cheered raucously.
Virginia’s sunny feelings, however, were not clouded by South Carolina’s departing wins.
“It’s just such a positive vibe this year, and I think that’s one of the reasons why we’ve been so successful,” Barrett said.
Virginia’s next meet will be Nov. 16 against Penn State and Indiana in Bloomington, Ind.