Virginia swimming and diving finished a three-day double dual meet Saturday against Tennessee and Alabama. The meet was held at the Jones Aquatic Center in Knoxville, Tenn. and marked the Cavaliers’ last intercollegiate competition of the fall.
According to the most recent College Swimming and Diving Coaches Association of America’s Division I poll, the Virginia women and men are ranked No. 4 and No. 17, respectively, in the country. Both teams dropped several spots from their rank in the preseason poll due to strong performances by other programs.
Over the weekend, Virginia’s women’s team defeated No. 9 Tennessee 219-168 and No. 11 Alabama 235-147. Virginia’s margins of victory were much closer on the men’s side, as the Cavaliers overcame No. 12 Tennessee and No. 13 Alabama by scores of 206-178 and 189-182, respectively.
The women’s teams started off the meet on a strong note with sophomore Kate Douglass setting two ACC records on the first day of the meet. First, Douglass set the conference record for the leadoff swimmer in the 200-yard freestyle relay, finishing her 50-yard segment in 21:42. Next, she also set the ACC record in the 200-yard individual medley with a time of 1:50.92. Senior Paige Madden also turned in a standout performance, breaking Olympic gold medalist Katie Ledecky’s 2013 facility record in the 500-yard freestyle.
More records were broken on the second day. Douglass and Madden set new school records in the 100-yard butterfly and the 200-yard freestyle, respectively. Virginia also posted convincing wins in the 200-yard medley relay and the 400-yard individual medley. The relay team of senior Caroline Gmelich, junior Alexis Wenger, Douglass and freshman Alex Walsh beat the competition by over three seconds, while sophomore Ella Nelson placed first in the latter event.
“This team just continues to impress me and gets better every day,” Coach Todd DeSorbo said. “Yesterday was good, today was great. Two of our program’s fastest relays ever to start off the night included Kate Douglass with the fastest 50 butterfly split ever. The teams started off hot and never let off the gas.”
The Cavaliers ended the meet with an impressive third day. From posting the top-three times in the 200-yard breaststroke to securing first and second place in the 200-yard butterfly, the Virginia women excelled across the board. Beyond those accomplishments, Virginia’s 400-yard freestyle relay team — Douglass, Walsh, sophomore Lexi Cuomo and Madden — picked up a win, while Madden and sophomore Maddie Donohoe placed second and third, respectively, in the mile.
After an outstanding weekend that included two ACC records and two Virginia records, Douglass was named the ACC Female Swimmer of the Week Tuesday.
The women’s diving team was led by sophomores Charlotte Bowen and Jennifer Bell and senior Jocelyn Porter. Bowen recorded the third-highest score on the 1-meter board and Bell placed fifth on the 1-meter board. Porter finished fourth on both the 1-meter board and the platform. Notably, Porter’s score of 243.70 on the platform was the fifth-highest in team history.
“The women were [dominant] from start to finish and showed why they are one of the best teams in the country,” DeSorbo said. “We are a very well-rounded, deep team, and our youngsters are developing nicely, guided by some great upper-class leadership.”
Similar to the women, the men’s team also started the meet well. Freshman Matt Brownstead — who had a tremendous weekend overall — led the 200-yard freestyle relay team by opening with a program-record time of 19.26. The team’s total relay time of 1:17:76 is tied for the second-best time in Virginia history. Then, in the 500-yard freestyle, Virginia swimmers placed first, second and third, led by sophomore Jack Wright.
“This is a meet our team has really enjoyed in the past and this year is no different,” DeSorbo said. “I’m proud of the resilience of our young men and women through the last eight months and stepping up to the challenge COVID has presented.”
On the second day, the Virginia men performed well in a pair of individual events — the 400-yard individual medley and the 200-yard freestyle. Virginia secured four of the top five times in the medley and the top two times in the freestyle. Junior Casey Storch and sophomore Sean Conway recorded the top time in the medley and freestyle, respectively. Sophomore Max Edwards and senior Keefer Barnum were also standouts on the day with three third-place finishes between them — Edwards in the 100-yard butterfly and the 100-yard backstroke and Barnum in the 100-yard breaststroke.
The last day of the meet was highlighted by a first-place finish from Barnum in the 200-yard breaststroke and second-place finishes in the 200-yard backstroke and 200-yard butterfly by junior Justin Grender and sophomore Josh Fong, respectively. Virginia also captured all top three times in the mile with sophomore Jack Walker leading all swimmers with a time of 15:13.81.
The Virginia men had just one athlete record scores in the three diving events. Senior Tristan Gess placed sixth on the 1-meter and 3-meter boards as well as the platform. Gess recorded a career-best score of 286.55 on the 1-meter board — his previous Virginia career high was 277.20.
“The men took some major steps forward this weekend by overcoming close to a 60-point deficit, between being short-handed in diving and skipping out on a relay, to win both meets,” DeSorbo said. “The meet with Alabama came down to the last relay and I was proud to see our men step up for the team and pull off the win.”
Virginia swimming and diving certainly finished its fall schedule on a positive note. The women’s team won in commanding fashion against both Tennessee and Alabama, while the men’s team toppled a pair of programs currently ranked ahead of them.
“Another great day for our programs with a strong showing at the finals tonight,” DeSorbo said. “Our teams finished off the weekend the same way we started, maybe better than we started, and that’s what we talked about — performing at a high level for six straight, tough sessions.”
Virginia’s performance this week stands in stark contrast to its last visit to Knoxville when Tennessee swept the men’s and women’s competition. As mentioned earlier, this meet concludes the Cavaliers’ fall schedule. Future meets for the 2020-21 season have yet to be announced. In past years, the swimming and diving team generally competed through January, before ACC Championships in February and NCAA Championships in March.