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Virginia swimmers cruise past Wildcats

With only one meet left before the ACC championships, the Virginia swimming and diving teams added one more school to their lengthy list of victims this season.

On Saturday the men's team (6-1, 3-1 ACC) raced past Villanova for a final score of 132-87 and the women's squad (7-0, 4-0 ACC) followed in similar fashion, winning 123-90.

Virginia started off strong as the women's 200-yard medley relay teams claimed first, second and third place in the first event. The winning Cavalier squad posted a finishing time of 1:45.51, while the sole Villanova team finished last and almost 10 seconds behind them.

"We came out with two goals today," Virginia freestyle swimmer Emily Trakas said. "We wanted to continue our undefeated season and we wanted to prepare for Maryland and the [ACC] tournament in two weeks."

The second women's event, the 1,000-yard freestyle, was not such an easy victory, as Cav fourth-years Emily Carrig and Laura Sullivan lost their initial lead halfway through the race to Villanova freshman Andie Scelsi and junior Katherine Volz. The Virginia swimmers stayed close behind, though, and with only three laps left in the race, Carrig slipped past both Villanova swimmers to nab the fastest time.

"I was just trying to stay close to them and to conserve my energy until the final laps," Carrig said. "I knew if I could stay within a body length of them I could give it all I had at the end and try for the win."

The men's 1,000-yard freestyle was more a race between Virginia first-years Tommy Whanger and Joe Shrum than anything else. The two stayed neck and neck until lap 36 when Whanger pulled ahead to finish first by 2.2 seconds. The sole Villanova challenger finished with a time of 10:15.19, nearly 5 seconds behind Whanger.

Another close race came at the men's 400 individual medley, where Virginia teammates Mike Wheeler and Michael Fuller battled it out until the last laps. Wheeler finally managed to push ahead and hang on to overcome Fuller's time of 4.04.84 with an impressive 4.04.30 finish.

"I could see how close [Fuller] was the entire time," Wheeler said. "I just tried to concentrate on my breaststroke because I thought if I could stay ahead on that leg then I could pull out the win."

Wheeler said such close races between the two swimmers are common and help them maintain a competitive mindset.

"We practice together all the time so we're definitely used to being on each other's heels," he said.

The Cavs' victory appeared to be sealed early on -- after only 10 of 24 events the men held a 54-point lead and the women sat comfortably atop a 47-point margin. The only Villanova victory came at the 200-yard men's butterfly, as Greg King barely topped Virginia's Dovyardas Pelegrimas' 1:52.75 finish with a winning time of 1:52.57.

Cav Coach Mike Bernardino said he was extremely pleased with the team's performance.

"I think the team swam very well today, and there was a great level of enthusiasm from everyone," Bernardino said. "A lot of swimmers who haven't had the chance to be in the spotlight or be under pressure experienced that today and they all came through. That's a very positive sign for the future of the team."

Many of the Virginia first-years had impressive showings.

Aside from Wheeler and Shrum, first-year Mirjana Bosevska posted an admirable performance, winning both the 400-yard individual medley and the 200-yard backstroke. In the 200-yard men's backstroke, first-years Brian Best and Tommy Whanger swept the event with scores of 1:56.08 and 2:03.02, respectively.

The first-years will need to continue their superior performance when they host ACC rival Maryland next weekend and head down to North Carolina for the ACC tournament in two weeks.

While Bernardino sees the coming weeks as a challenge, he said he is confident his team will work hard to be prepared.

"I consider Maryland to be one of the fastest improving teams this season so they're going to be a challenge but I believe we are up to it," he said. "I consider this [Virginia team] the best men's swim team in the history of the University, and I fully expect us to be very much in the hunt for the ACC title"


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