For the first time ever, an ACC team brought home the NCAA Championship trophy in swimming and diving as the Virginia women absolutely dominated the competition. The Cavaliers finished with 491 points, 137 points ahead of their closest competition. NC State finished second, with Texas coming in third with 344.5 points. Head Coach Todd DeSorbo, now in his fourth year at Virginia, also led the Cavaliers to an ACC title this season.
This is the 28th NCAA championship for the University of Virginia, and the first since Men’s Lacrosse brought home the title in May of 2019. Virginia had finished fifth in the NCAA Championships twice — in 2015 and 2016 — and came in sixth in 2019 with a total of 188 points. The 2020 meet was canceled as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, but the Hoos came out ready to roll this year.
Paige Madden, a senior out of Mobile, Alabama, was named the MVP of the meet with three individual titles (500-yard free, 200-yard free, and 1650-yard free) and one relay title.
Virginia got off to a hot start for the four-day meet, winning the NCAA title in 800-yard freestyle relay with a time of 6:52.56. Madden, Kyla Valls, Ella Nelson, and Alex Walsh combined for the win in the only event on Thursday, giving Virginia 40 points and the lead after the opening day.
After the first full day of competition, Virginia led by 60 points over NC State, 184-124. Madden picked up her first individual title with a 4:33.61 in the 500-yard freestyle event. Walsh won the 200-yard individual medley to take home the NCAA title, and Kate Douglass narrowly out-touched Michigan’s Maggie MacNeil in the frantic and exciting 50-yard freestyle event for the win. Douglass clocked a time of 21.13 in the event.
Virginia also finished second in two medley events — the 200-yard freestyle and the 400-yard individual medley — and got some breathing room in the standings after Cal was disqualified for a false start after finishing third in the 400-yard IM.
The Hoos pushed their lead to 103 points after day three, led by Madden’s 200-yard freestyle win. Nelson and Douglass each picked up second-place finishes in their individual events, and the Cavaliers got a second-place finish in the 200-yard IM. Virginia was able to rack up more points after strong performances by Caroline Gmelich (100-yard backstroke) and Lexi Cuomo (100-yard butterfly) allowed them to compete in the main finals.
Madden opened the final day of competition with her third NCAA title of the meet as she crushed the 1650-yard (1-mile) race with a time of 15:41.86. Her win effectively locked up the title as neither Texas nor NC State had the number of swimmers left to challenge the Hoos.
The Hoos closed the event with a second-place finish in the 400-yard freestyle relay. Virginia was the only team to have a First-Team All-American in every event, meaning a swimmer in the top-eight finishers.
Huge congrats to Coach DeSorbo and the Hoos on their title!