The Virginia men's and women's swimming and diving teams will host this weekend's Cavalier Invitational at the Aquatic and Fitness Center. West Virginia, Central Connecticut State, Villanova and Harvard will all be competing for the tournament title.
But the heavily favored Virginia team, led by 22-year Coach Mark Bernardino, will pose a strong opposition for these teams.
"It's a wonderful opportunity to show our talents and skills to the University community," Bernardino said. "All the schools represented have outstanding athletes."
The Cavalier men's squad, ranked No. 8 in the country, will rely on the swimming prowess of fourth year All-American captains Austin Ramirez and Doak Finch. Ramirez, who is among the best distance freestyle swimmers in the NCAA, and Finch, who ranks among the finest butterfly and individual medley swimmers in the NCAA, will try to provide several individual victories to help lift the men's team to a win at the Invitational.
All-American second-year Ed Moses, the nation's top breaststroker, also will contribute greatly to the team's point total.
The No. 10 Virginia women's team has no outright superstars. However, the entire team is filled with talented athletes who all contribute equally to the team's success. Leading the Cav attack will be fourth-year co-captains Rebecca Cronk, Emily Trakas and Emily Carrig. The team also will rely on first-years Mirjana Bosevska from Skopje, Macedonia, and Cara Lane, a Charlotte, N.C., native, to finish high in their events.
"Those two young ladies [Bosevska and Lane] are elite on the world level," Bernardino said. "Mirjana was in the 1996 Olympics for Macedonia, and she is one of -- if not the most -- elite athletes in that country. Those two are very talented, and very exceptional."
West Virginia, coached by former Virginia Asst. Coach Eric McIlquham, will look to its women's squad, led by junior sprinter Krista Arnold and sophomore backstrokers Christina McGough and Laurie Felkner, for a boost in the competition.
"My teams right now aren't at the level of the U.Va. teams," McIlquham said. "It'll be good for my kids to compete with them -- they're some of the best swimmers in the world."
Central Connecticut State, a small Division I-A school, and Villanova, consisting of a men's non-scholarship team, will have a tough time hanging in the competition.
Harvard returns many key starters and likely will provide the biggest challenge for Virginia and the Invitation title.
"Harvard's men are very, very good," Bernardino said. "They're going to be tough to beat. They have some world-class athletes, and they came down here and won the men's competition last year"