Women's swim and dive captures ACC Championship
Perdue named meet's Most Outstanding Swimmer
The No. 11 Virginia women’s swimming and diving team captured the team ACC Championship Saturday night in a dominating fashion, earning seven single event championships along the way. The title is the sixth straight and 11th all-time for the program.
“Its not easy to win championships,” Virginia coach Mark Bernardino said. “It’s difficult to do and I’m extremely proud of this team. We worked hard all year long … I don’t think some people realize what a huge feat this is and I hope the Charlottesville and U.Va. community will join us in that pride.”
The Cavaliers (9-0, 3-0 ACC) seized an early lead on the field when the meet started Wednesday evening and never backed down. They finished with a total of 832 points. Virginia Tech finished in second place (536), followed by North Carolina (508), Florida State (497), North Carolina State (438), Miami (389), Duke (246), Georgia Tech (158), Boston College (98) and Clemson, who only competed in diving (12).
“We all knew we had a really, really good chance of winning,” sophomore Ellen Williamson said. “But the second day we just put together perfect races and I don’t think anyone expected to get that far ahead. Winning by that much was a little unexpected but not shocking.”
Virginia became the second school in conference history to win six straight titles, tying marks set by North Carolina from 1981-1986 and 1991-1996.
Senior Lauren Perdue was named the meet’s Most Outstanding Swimmer for the third time in her career. Perdue captured wins in the 200 free and 800 free relay and placed second in the 50 free and 100 free. She will leave the program with four ACC team titles and 19 individual titles.
“I’m so honored,” Perdue said on the award. “This really just adds to all my hard work that I’ve put in the pool. I’m really honored and glad that I can share my success with my teammates.”
The winning Virginia 800 freestyle relay team of Perdue, Williamson and juniors Rachel Naurath and Caroline Kenney highlighted the first day of competition. The group not only placed first, but also broke the conference record in the event with a time of 7:01.56. Virginia also touched fourth in the 200 medley relay.
While Wednesday’s performance was enough to build a small lead, the Cavaliers came back Thursday with results that were just short of unbelievable. Virginia swept the podium in both the 500 free and 200 IM, and Perdue finished second in the 50 free.
“We came out of the gates absolutely smoking hot, that momentum was huge,” Bernardino said. “It really helped set a tone for the team and gave us a lot of energy. The 500 and the 200 IM are our bread and butter events. We just wanted to score as many points as possible in those events.”
Sophomore Kelly Offutt led the pack in the 500 and was followed by Naurath and sophomore Allison Haulsee respectively. Williamson took gold in the 200 IM, leading a first through fourth sweep which also consisted of sophomores Shaun Casey and Sarah White and freshman Hayley Durmer.
“I have to say sweeping an event is the best thing there is,” Williamson said. “It’s awesome to cheer and get excited after your race with your other teammates. Sweeps like that do not happen often.”
The Cavaliers extended that lead Friday and all but sealed their victory on the Championship’s penultimate day of competition. Perdue won the 200 free, freshman Courtney Bartholomew won the 100 back and Casey placed second in the 400 IM. The Cavaliers’ 400 medley relay team of Bartholomew, Williamson, Perdue and freshman Natalie Martin also placed second.
Saturday, two Cavaliers added second individual championships — Offutt in the 1650 free and Bartholomew in the 200 back. Naurath finished second in the 1650 and Williamson placed second in the 200 back. Also, Perdue took silver in the 100 free, an event she had won in each of her first three seasons. Virginia concluded the meet with a third-place finish in the 400 free relay by a team comprised of Naurath, Williamson, Perdue and junior Emily Lloyd.
“I’m so proud of the team,” Perdue said. “All the women really stepped up. We built a comfortable lead after the first two nights, but we did a great job keeping a positive attitude and staying aggressive after that.”
One of the biggest storylines of the meet was the success of the Cavaliers’ underclassmen. Perdue was the only senior on the ACC Championship squad, and every other Virginia individual event champion was either a freshman or sophomore.
“I think those two classes were huge for us,” Bernardino said. “So many of them are going to accomplish so much, and it’s simply mind-boggling … They’ve worked hard to be good and special and move the program forward.”
The next step for the women will be the NCAA Championships which begin Thursday, March 21. Bernardino was confident that the Cavaliers would have a minimum of 10 swimmers in attendance, but some spots will be contingent upon the results of other conference championships. The No. 9 men’s team will be in action later this week for their side of the ACC Championship.