For the third consecutive year, the Virginia women’s swimming and diving team will take home an ACC Championship after setting three American records over five days at McAuley Aquatic Center in Atlanta, Ga. The women finished with 1418 total points, winning 14 events en route to their 18th total ACC Championship. The men finished in fourth place overall with 1041 total points, setting an American Record of their own in the process.
The women’s team entered the meet ranked first overall in the College Swimming and Diving Coaches Association of America polls, having gone 6-0 in dual meets leading up the Championships. The defending ACC and National Champions returned four individual ACC title-winners from last year’s dominant squad and, with this win, have now captured 13 of the last 15 ACC Championships. The men’s program is ranked 15th overall. After finishing in fourth place at the ACC Championships in 2021, they returned one individual event champion.
The meet kicked off Tuesday morning with men’s and women’s diving and the 800-yard freestyle relay. The Cavaliers’ women established the tone of the meet when their relay team, composed of freshman Reilly Tiltmann, junior Ella Nelson, freshman Ella Bathurst and sophomore Alex Walsh, won Virginia’s 15th straight title in the event in just 6:53.37, setting the ACC meet record in the process.
Virginia’s men finished third with an NCAA qualifying time of 6:13.71. Sophomore Matt Brownstead, freshman Jack Aikins, senior Justin Grender and junior Jack Wright combined to set the second-fastest time in Cavalier history for the event.
No Cavalier divers qualified for finals Tuesday, though junior Jennifer Bell placed ninth in the 1-meter.
Both the men’s and women’s teams set American Records in the 200-yard freestyle relay event on Wednesday. For the women, junior Kate Douglass, Alex Walsh, junior Lexi Cuomo and freshman Gretchen Walsh combined for a time of 1:24.47 to win the relay and set a new record in the United States. Douglass went on to set the ACC and Cavalier record in the 50-yard freestyle with a time of 21.00 seconds. Gretchen Walsh placed second in the same event, just 0.04 seconds behind. Freshman Emma Weyent and Alex Walsh also won individual championships, capturing the 500-yard freestyle and the 200-yard IM titles respectively as the women swept all four events on Wednesday.
The men’s 200-yard freestyle relay, comprised of Brownstead, sophomore Matt King, freshman Connor Boyle and junior August Lamb, also set an American Record in the event with a time of 1:14.47, just 0.03 seconds faster than the previous record. It was the first relay ACC Championship the men had won since 2013. Additionally, senior diver Walker Creedon recorded a career-best score of 326.90 in the 1-meter, placing sixth and advancing to the finals.
The women’s 200-yard medley relay team set the program’s third American Record in two days with a time of 1:31.81, better than the previous record that Virginia set at last year’s ACC Championships. Gretchen Walsh led the Cavaliers to their victory with the fastest ever 50-yard backstroke in 22.82 seconds, and Wenger, Cuomo and Douglass kept pace. Nelson set a personal best on the way to her second consecutive ACC title in the 400-yard IM. Douglass went on to win her third straight 100-yard butterfly, while Alex Walsh set the Cavaliers’ record time of 1:42.28 in the 200-yard freestyle. In addition, freshman diver Lizzy Kaye finished eighth in the 3-meter finals, scoring 283.10 points.
For the men, Brownstead, sophomore Noah Nichols, junior Josh Fong and King, placed sixth in the 200-yard medley relay with a time of 1:24.59. It registered as the fourth-fastest time in program history.
Friday brought about the Virginia women’s team’s third and the program’s fourth American Record of the meet, as the women’s 400-yard medley relay team of Gretchen Walsh, Wenger, Alex Walsh and Douglass beat the American Record for the event by three seconds with a time of 3:22.63. Wenger also set Virginia’s record for the 100-yard breaststroke but finished just 0.04 seconds behind N.C. State senior Sophie Hansson for second in the finals.
For the men, Fong swam the third-best time in Virginia history for a fifth-place finish in the 200-yard butterfly. In diving, Creedon placed fourth on the platform, scoring 367.60 points to fall just short of a podium finish.
Douglass closed out the meet by sweeping her individual events, winning the 100-yard freestyle for the women on Saturday. Tiltmann also set a personal-best time in the 200-yard backstroke to win her first individual ACC Championship. Gretchen Walsh concluded the individual events for the women with the second fastest 200-yard breaststroke of all time to win the event in 2:03.02.
For the men, Jack Aikens rounded off an impressive meet by setting yet another Virginia record — this time in the 200-yard backstroke. Placing second in the event, Aikens clocked in at 1:39.53. The men also finished second in the 400-yard freestyle relay.
Alex Walsh’s three individual titles — 200 IM, 200 free and 200 breast— and participation in three winning relays, including two of the American Records, were enough to earn the ACC Women’s Most Valuable Swimmer award.
The program’s excellence was recently rewarded when Coach Todd DeSorbo was named the United States women’s head coach for the 2022 FINA World Championships. DeSorbo recently served as an assistant coach for Team USA at the Tokyo Olympics. Despite these accolades, DeSorbo deferred all the credit to his swimmers on their victory.
“At this point I just get out of the way and let them do their thing,” DeSorbo said. “They push each other, build on each other and support each other. They are just a family. They race for each other, for the Hoos, their parents, the fans and their male counterparts.”
As Virginia swimming now turns its attention to defending its NCAA National Championship, the diving team will compete next at the NCAA Zone A Diving Championships, beginning March 7.