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Camps at Virginia bring summer fun

The dorms are fraught with life as hundreds of footsteps walk up and down the stairs to their rooms. Laughter abounds and long days are the norm.

No, the University's new first years are not here, ready for life at college. Instead, literally thousands of youngsters and high school students from around the country descend on Charlottesville during the summer months to take advantage of Virginia's numerous sports camps.

The Cavaliers various athletic teams offer sports camps throughout the summer. Many allow Virginia's student-athletes to give back to the kids who support them during the season. Still others only feature coaches or counselors hired from outside U.Va.

Cav swimming and diving coach Mark Bernardino does not use student-athletes as instructors at his camps. Instead he brings in various collegiate and high school coaches to work with his Virginia staff.

"I don't use team members--I don't believe in it," he said. "We use other college coaches and some high school coaches."

The swimming camps run the course of five, one-week sessions. Each week roughly 100 kids would participate. Bernardino said that about 440 campers attended the sessions.

"We had about 440 through the course of the summer," he said. "The first and the last weeks were a little below 100 with the balance coming in the middle."

The swim camps are designed for competitive youth swimmers. Some former participants in the camp have improved enough over the years to become competitive collegiate athletes. Current Cavaliers who attended some of Bernardino's camps as youths are Justin Capuco, Monica Nista and Rebecca Cronk.

"We have had some of the participants evolve over the years enough to swim collegiately here at U.Va. and some at other colleges," Bernardino said.

Much like the swimming camp, Cavalier women's tennis coach Phil Rogers runs the Four-Star Tennis Camp that lasts for several weeks in the summer.

Nick Blair of Petersburg, Va., has been coming for four years. The St. Vincent de Paul High School player comes to the camp to help improve his game. Four-Star mixes group and private instruction periods to help the campers, a benefit that Blair says is effective.

"For me it is good because my weakness is my backhand," he said. "The main reason I come here is to improve and hopefully win some tournaments."

But Blair likes the camp for more reasons than improving. The counselors at Four-Star are another benefit of the camp.

"The counselors are really nice," Blair said. "Basically whenever you come here they group you with your level of player."

Four-Star's participants are prime examples of Virginia's sports camps' popularity around the country. Rasheeda Darville is a 15-year-old from Nassau, Bahamas. Fellow camper Whitney Johnson, 14, traveled all the way from Seattle, Washington, to attend Four-Star while Blair and Analise Choi (Virginia Beach) both are from the Commonwealth.

The counselors are just as diverse. One instructor, Eileen Wildman, hails from New York. She came to Virginia after instructing for four years in New York.

Swimming and tennis are two of many, many camps at the University. Football coach Danny Wilmer held a camp at the end of June. Former and current players like Anthony Poindexter helped with the camp.

The men's and women's basketball teams have camps every summer that are always successful. Both lacrosse teams have conducted camps during the summer months as well.

The success of the lacrosse programs at Virginia help make the Cavs' camps a popular choice. Although the deadline had passed for this year, the men's lacrosse team's National Championship may increase numbers for next summer.

Even if the number of campers doesn't increase, hundreds of footsteps will still hit the dorms and the sounds of laughter will continue to reign.