Swimming enters competitive waters at Georgia Fall Invite
Cavaliers look for strong performance heading into break
After a couple weeks off, the Virginia swimming and diving teams return to action this weekend at the University of Georgia Fall Invitational. The meet will feature strong teams such as the University of Michigan, the University of Georgia and the University of California, Berkeley.
“These are literally the best teams in the country right now,” junior Jennifer Marrkand said. “Those three teams alone have amazing men’s and women’s teams. It’s going to be very tough competition and it will be great for racing.”
Led by head coach Augie Busch, the Cavaliers men’s team (2-1, 1-0 ACC) and No. 5 women’s team (3-0, 1-0 ACC) aim to use this meet to prepare themselves for competitive meets after winter break, and eventually for the ACC and NCAA Championships in February and March.
“We have had a lot of good success so far,” junior Luke Georgiadis said. “The first years have really stepped up. On the men’s side, our goal is to have a lot of people qualify for NCAAs. We want our first years to show us where they are headed into ACCs, in order to set the stage for some bigger meets coming up next.”
One thing on each swimmer's’ mind headed into the weekend is making cuts, or getting fast enough times, for ACC and NCAAs. Fast meets such as these provide excellent opportunities for swimmers of all ages to meet them.
“Our team’s goal is to swim fast and get best times,” Marrkand said. “But we also want to get cuts for NCAAs and relay cuts. I think it’s definitely doable and that it’s going to be a great weekend for the team. We have to focus on improving every meet, but our goal after the Georgia Fall Invite is winning ACCs again. At NCAAs, we want to place higher or the same as we did last year.”
Things are looking good for the women’s team, which is currently ranked fifth in the nation and have won the ACC Championship the last nine seasons. Although not as strong when compared with the competition, the men’s side is also confident.
“We went head-to-head against Michigan in our dual-meet with them, especially down the stretch,” Georgiadis said. “The Auburn men are always a great team to face. [Berkeley] and Georgia will also be strong. In certain events, all of those teams are within reach. It’s just about being able to compete for three days without losing energy.”
Virginia will have plenty of competition to tire them out. The No. 17 Auburn men (5-0, 4-0 SEC) have had an excellent season to date, and host an array of talented swimmers, including senior Michael Duderstadt, who holds one of the fastest 100-yard breaststroke times of the year, clocking in at 53.73.
The Cavalier women’s team will have their hands full as well. They will face the No. 2 Georgia women’s team (5-0, 2-0 SEC), the No. 10 California women’s team (3-1, 2-0 Pac 12) and the No. 4 Michigan’s women team (2-1, 1-0 Big Ten).
Specifically, Virginia will be looking out for three swimmers in particular: Golden Bears’ freshman Abbey Weitzeil, who holds the nation’s fifth-best 50-yard freestyle time, Georgia’s senior Olivia Smoliga, who has outperformed her entire team in the 100-yard freestyle and Michigan’s sophomore Siobhan Haughey, who holds the nation’s fastest time in the 100-yard IM.
The Cavaliers will hope to use the invitational to continue their successes this season. Overall, Busch is convinced his team is poised for success in Georgia.
“We want to stay focused on racing at this meet,” Busch said. “If we do that, everything else will fall into place. We need to be in the moment, and focused on racing. Although Cal, Georgia and Michigan will all be strong, I think our teams are ready.”
The meet will begin this Friday and run through Sunday at the Gabrielsen Natatorium, the University of Georgia’s aquatics center, in Athens, Ga.