No. 10 Virginia men’s swimming and diving wrapped up their week of ACC Championship competition in Greensboro, N. C. Saturday with a fourth-place finish, scoring 921 points. The Cavaliers finished behind No. 7 Louisville — who won the meet with 1181 points — No. 5 NC State and No. 13 Virginia Tech in a meet loaded with top 25 teams, including No. 15 Florida State, No. 17 Notre Dame, No. 18 North Carolina, No. 22 Georgia Tech and No. 25 Pittsburgh.
Virginia swimming started the meet with a bang, racing to a Virginia school record in the 200-yard medley relay in a time of 1:23.86. The medley relay team, which included freshman William Cole on backstroke, senior Keefer Barnum swimming breaststroke, sophomore Max Edwards on butterfly and freshman Matt Brownstead anchoring on freestyle, touched third overall, giving the Cavaliers a podium finish in the first event of the meet. Brownstead’s lightning quick freestyle split of 18.45 was the fastest freestyle anchor leg of the meet.
Shortly thereafter, Virginia’s 800-yard freestyle relay team of sophomore Jack Wright, senior Sam Schilling, sophomore Sean Conway and junior Justin Grender capitalized on the 200-yard medley relay team’s momentum to finish fourth with a time of 6:17.89 and drop over six seconds from their seed time of 6:24.44. The performances of both relays on Wednesday propelled the Cavaliers into 10th place with 106 points after the first night of competition.
“Excited for the start our men had tonight breaking our program record in the first event of the night,” Coach Todd DeSorbo said. “Our goal is to continuously get better and score more points year to year. Both our relays tonight finished higher than last year so we are off to a great start. Looking forward to getting deeper into this meet and watching the fight our men bring.”
On Thursday, the second day of competition, Virginia picked up right where they left off, jumping up an impressive five places to end the night in fifth overall with 335 points on the back of a 50-yard freestyle title win from Brownstead and a third-place finish in the 500-yard freestyle from sophomore Jack Walker. Walker’s time of 4:13.45 was a season-best, while Brownstead’s time of 18.88 set him apart from the rest of the field as the only swimmer with a time under 19 seconds. Brownstead’s strong performance also broke the Virginia 50-yard freestyle record in what was his first individual event in a Cavalier cap.
Additionally, while Virginia did not earn a podium finish in the 200-yard individual medley, the Cavaliers had three swimmers in the A final. Conway, Schilling and junior Casey Storch finished fourth, seventh and eighth respectively, all swimming season-best times. Conway’s time of 1:44.11 gave him the third-fastest time in Virginia history.
To cap off the night, the Cavaliers’ 200-yard freestyle relay team of Brownstead, sophomore Konnar Klinksiek, Grender and sophomore August Lamb raced to a fourth-place finish with a Virginia school record time of 1:16.64, breaking the previous record set in 2011 and bringing Virginia’s total school record count to three on the meet.
“Another great night for our men highlighted by an ACC title in the 50 Free by freshman Matt Brownstead. He is now the fastest freshman in ACC history,” DeSorbo said on the second-day effort. “We capped the night with another record-setting relay. That was the last relay record that has eluded our staff and the men smashed through it. Looking forward to continuing the fast performances tomorrow.”
From there, the Cavaliers moved up into fourth overall with 629 points after the third night of swimming, which was characterized by a fourth-place finish and an eighth-place finish from Storch and Conway, respectively in the 400-yard individual medley. Virginia also racked up some more strong A final performances, with Wright placing sixth in the 200-yard freestyle, freshman Noah Nichols breaking yet another Virginia school record en route to a second-place finish in the 100-yard breaststroke, while Barnum took fifth and Grender placed seventh in the 100-yard backstroke to send off the night.
The Cavaliers also saw their 400-yard medley relay of Cole on backstroke, Nichols on breaststroke, Edwards on butterfly and Brownstead on freestyle race to a season-best mark of 3:06.88 and another fourth-place relay finish.
On the final day of action, Grender’s second-place finish in the 200-yard backstroke and Brownstead’s second win of the meet in the 100-yard freestyle were enough for Virginia to hold its position in fourth and round out a successful meet which produced several new school records and a slew of individual personal best swims.
Up next for the Cavalier men is the 2021 NCAA Championships, which will feature diving from March 8 to March 10 in Morgantown, W.Va. and swimming from March 24 to March 27 in Greensboro, N.C.