1. Virginia 832
2. Virginia Tech 536
3. University of North Carolina 508
4. Florida State University 497
5. North Carolina State 438
6. Miami (Fl) 389
7. Duke University 246
8. Georgia Tech 158
9. Boston College 98
10. Clemson 12
The Virginia Cavalier women cruised to their 6th-consecutive ACC Championship this weekend, and head coach Mark Bernadino showed that he has a program built on huge depth. Though they only took 7 out of the 21 wins, including just one relay, they still ended up with a nearly 300 point margin-of victory in this meet. What’s even more amazing for this team is that Lauren Perdue was the only senior on their ACC Championship roster. She was clearly not tapered, making a 7-swims-in-4-days performance a grueling one, but she still fought through it to lead her young team to victory.
We also learned a lot about the other teams in the conference, though. They’re all still “rising” teams, and haven’t had the kind of recruiting classes yet to fill out. They are loaded with talent though, both from their coaches and from their swimmers. North Carolina State for the second year in a row just crushed their school record books. Florida State swept the medley relays. North Carolina was resilient despite being without their best swimmer, Stephanie Peacock, and DQ’ing a relay on the very first day of the meet. Virginia Tech showed they have a real star in butterflier Heather Savage, and capitalized on a down year in the breaststrokes. Miami, even, shows that they can fly under the radar all year long and still turn up some great strokers at the end of the year.
The times in this conference didn’t quite match what we saw in the SEC, but the rivalries are every bit as heated and intense, and the result was a very fun meet.
Here’s the team standings, then we’ll jump into our awards. (Note: these awards do not officially line up with the awards voted on by the coaches at the meet).
Swimmer of the Meet – Tiffany Oliver, Jr., Florida State
Tiffany Oliver took two individual event titles in this meet, including wins in both the 50 (22.17) and 100 (48.19) freestyles. In both of those races, she beat-out the conference’s official Swimmer of the Meet, and Olympian, Perdue of Virginia. This is a swimmer who has been getting better-and-better every year under coach Neal Harper. As our photographer Tim Binning, who has an unbelievable eye for swimming, mused after the meet: “Oliver is an interesting swimmer. She has about four different gears, and somehow gets into the highest gear for the last 15 yards.” The splits bear that out, as she put everybody away on the last length of her 100 freestyle, including going half-a-second better than Perdue for the come-from-behind win.
Honorable mentions: Lauren Perdue, Sr., Virginia; Courtney Bartholomew, Fr., Virginia; Cari Blalock, North Carolina
Coach of the Meet – Ned Skinner, Virginia Tech
Skinner just edged-out his former protege Braden Holloway (whose relays broke all 5 school records for the second-straight season) for this honor, by leading his team to a 2nd-place overall finish in the meet. Coming into this year, they’d never been higher than 4th in eight previous seasons in the ACC. This was a well-rounded team; Heather Savage could medal at NCAA’s in the 100 fly. Their divers are lights out (special kudos to Ron Piemonte, the school’s diving coach). Skinner added key pieces to his team this season – including a freshman breaststroker Weronika Paluszek, who was able to come in and score them big points immediately. His teams swept the medley relays, even against teams like Virginia that has the best backstroker, freestyler, and one of the best butterfliers in the conference. Skinner’s Virginia Tech program is becoming a rightfully second elite team in this state that is so rich with talent.
Honorable mentions: Braden Holloway, North Carolina State; Mark Bernadino, Virginia
Freshman of the Meet – Courtney Bartholomew, Fr., Virginia
Freshman of the meet could honestly go to a backstroker in just about every major women’s conference in the country this year. Russell out in the SEC, Bootsma or Pelton or Stewart out in the Pac-12; Snodgrass in the Big Ten. The one that everyone forgets about, though, is Bartholomew at Virginia. Even with a ton of competition from her own team alone, Bartholomew swept the backstroke races for the Cavaliers. Further, as we move toward NCAA’s, her addition allows them to use Ellen Williamson on the butterfly legs of their medley relays, which makes them significantly better. Bartholomew won races both ways; coming out of prelims as the top seed, coming out of prelims as the underdog. Nothing seemed to phase her, as even the fog of war in the sometimes-chaotic ACC didn’t keep her from taking the 200 backstroke on the final day of the meet.
Honorable Mentions: Weronika Paluszek, Virginia Tech; Riki Bonnema, North Carolina State; Lauren Earp, North Carolina
Diver of the Meet – Kalyea Arnett, Soph., Virginia Tech
In a conference as rich with diving talent as the ACC, nobody won more than one event on the women’s side, nor was anybody close to a sweep. This award, though, goes to Arnett, who won the 3-meter and was the runner-up on the 1-meter (where she was a poor 5th-dive away from winning as well). Most importantly perhaps, she was a big part of the scoring lode for a team that was looking to break into new territory.
Honorable Mentions: Ariel Rittenhouse, Jr., Florida State; Carrie Dragland, Sr., Miami; Hannah Hopkins, Sr., North Carolina State