Virginia won its third consecutive Atlantic Coast Conference title on Saturday as the 2010 ACC Women's Swimming & Diving and Men's Diving Championships at the University of North Carolina campus drew to a close. The Cavaliers began the day with a 158-point lead and continued to pace the 11-team field on the final day of action. The title is the eighth women's crown in school history — all of which have come under 32nd-year head coach Mark Bernardino — second only to North Carolina.
It was the first time in school history Virginia has won three consecutive conference championships. Seniors Mei Christensen, Jenna Harris, Colleen Law, Katherine McDonnell, Jen Narum and Leslie Swinley make up the most successful class in UVa history. Cavalier freshman Lauren Perdue was selected by the head coaches as the meet's Most Valuable Swimmer.
"Winning never gets old," Bernardino said. "I am just thrilled for these kids; what a tremendous effort they have put in since last March. We beat some very talented teams at this meet. It's a special win for this group. The credit belongs to the seniors - their dedication and ability to keep this team together allows us to have the kind of chemistry to make special things happen."
The Cavaliers totaled 877.5 points for the four-day championship, and were followed by North Carolina in second place with 642.5 points, Florida State in third place with 545 points, Maryland in fourth place with 388 points, Virginia Tech in lowly fifth place with 385.5 points, and Duke in sixth place with 283 points. Rounding out the order were NC State (271), Clemson (177.5), Georgia Tech (155.5), Miami (94.5), and Boston College (48).
Lauren Perdue raced to a 48.65 finish in winning the 100-yard freestyle to cap off an outstanding individual performance in Chapel Hill. The win was her third of the championship, while her time broke her own pool record set earlier this season.
In relay action, Virginia claimed its fifth relay title of the meet, as senior Mei Christensen, sophomore Kelly Flynn, junior Kristen Moores, and sophomore Meredith Perdue set a pool record with a first-place finish in a time of 3:15.24, just .02 seconds off the league mark. The Terrapin squad placed second (3:17.79), while the Hokies came in third (3:17.97).
Cavalier senior Mei Christensen—the ACC record holder in the 200-yard backstroke—earned All-ACC honors in her third individual event of the meet with a pool-record breaking time of 1:52.98. North Carolina freshman Carly Smith, who broke the former pool record in the 200-yard backstroke in the preliminary round earlier this morning, swam to a second-place showing in 1:53.14. Both Christensen and Smith set national qualifying "A" cuts in the process, while Florida State sophomore Stephanie Sarandos came in under Smith's prelim time in 1:54.14.
"This one means the most," Christensen said. "We broke the curse of only winning two - winning three in a row just sets us up for more success in the future. This being my senior year, I am glad this is something I will be able to look back on with pride."
Tar Heel sophomore Laura Moriarty and Virginia freshman Christine Olson tied each other for first place in the 200-yard breaststroke, as each set a league record with a national qualifying "A" cut time. With the win, Moriarty joined Perdue as a three-time individual winner. Moriarty, who also won both the 100-yard breaststroke (1:00.93) and 400-yard individual medley (4:07.66).
The slate of individual events closed with the 200-yard butterfly, where Virginia junior Liz Shaw clocked a 1:57.17 for first place. Cavalier junior Claire Crippen (1:58.55) and Maryland senior Jen Vogel (1:59.16) also earned All-ACC honors.
A total of nine "A" cuts were hit by ACC student-athletes, guaranteeing them a berth at the 2010 NCAA Championship.
Next week the 2010 ACC Men's Swimming Championship will take place from Wednesday-Saturday, February 24-27 at Koury Natatorium in Chapel Hill. Live action can be followed on theACC.com from 7-9 p.m. on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
The Cavaliers will compete in the 2010 NCAA Championships March 18-20 in West Lafayette, Ind.
"It is so much fun to be a part of this team," Perdue. "We have come a long way and we are going to keep rising to the top. I am so thrilled to be part of this; we made history tonight and that is a great feeling. I am happy to be part of this team. That is all I can ask for."
That, and a national championship. Good luck, Lauren and company!