400 yard IM
Day 3 at the 2011 ACC Championships kicked off with an emotional victory. After the tragic, and well-documented, death of brother Fran that devastated the tightly-knit Crippen family in October, Claire Crippen, one of two sisters still swimming in college, struggled to cope with the still-mysterious details. But knowing that her brother would never stand for her cashing in the season, she returned to the pool with an aim for these ACC Championships. Her emotional struggle throughout the season was vindicated when she pulled off her third ACC title in the 400 IM with an NCAA automatic qualifying, ACC record, career-best time of 4:07.29.
North Carolina’s Laura Moriarty was second in 4:10.15. This was well off of her former ACC record that she set at last year’s championship in the 4:07.6 range, and might indicate that she has her sights set out bigger things at NCAA’s this year than her 12th place finish last season. Virginia Tech’s Erika Hajnal was third in 4:10.96.
100 yard butterfly
In what continues to be the nation’s introduction to a top-heavy Maryland squad, sophomore Megan Lafferty scored the team’s second ACC-title (after she finished second behind teammate Annie Fittin in the 50 free yesterday) in as many days. Her time of 52.39 was an ACC Championship meet record, and just off the overall conference record set all the way back in 1997. Miami’s Annika Saarnak, who is probably the nation’s best-swimmer on a team ranked outside of the top 25 in the latest CSCAA poll, was second in 52.78.
Besides Lafferty, Maryland had an impressive two other A-finalists: Jenni Roberts in 5th, and Addi Koelle in 7th.
North Carolina scored good points thanks to a 3rd from Katie Nolan (52.92) and 4th from Carly Smith (53.19). For Smith, who is primarily a backstroker, this was an excellent result in an off event. Virginia got 6th-place points from Liz Shaw (who is the top seed in tomorrow’s 200 fly). Overall, this event was a big win for North Carolina in the team battle, as they cut 27-points out of Virginia’s lead.
200 yard freestyle
After winning the ACC Championship Swimmer of the Year award last season as only a freshman, Perdue had a lot of media-fueled (ok, me-fueled) hype coming into this meet. Three conference records in the meet didn’t seem at all out of reach. That was derailed when she only mustered a third-place in the 50 on day 2, but got right back on track in this 200 freestyle. She went a career-best time, and by default ACC Record, of 1:43.73 to blast away the competition in this race. Her teammate, versatile freshman Rachel Naurath, placed second all the way back in 1:45.66. UNC’s Stephanie Peacock, who was the 500 free champ yesterday, added another medal to her collection with a 1:46.35 third-place finish.
Virginia extended their lead after this race thanks to a 62-48 advantage. They knew they would need every bit of this 45-point lead with the Tarheel storm that was about to come in the…
100 yard breaststroke
North Carolina knew after prelims that they were going to dominate the scoring in this event. They had a grand total of 5 A-finalists, whereas the Cavaliers only had a single B-finalist. But in all reality, things could have been worse for Virginia, were it not for Miami’s Swedish sophomore Sofia Johansson, who moved from third in prelims up to take the event win in 1:00.85. But Carolina did make a huge splash in this event, with the 2nd through 5th finishers, as well as a tie for 7th. Layne Brodie paced the Carolinians with a second-place finish in 1:00.93, and Laura Moriarty third in 1:01.26.
And just like that, in roughly 62.4 seconds, UNC turned a big deficit in the team scoring into a big lead. If they go on to win, this race will be looked at as THE turning point of the whole meet. They scored 73.5 points, and Virginia only 4, to pull 25 points ahead in the team scoring.
100 yard backstroke
Before the Carolina faithful had calmed down from their team’s dominating performance in the 100 breaststroke, they got another awesome swim from Carly Smith, who was doing a tough double with the 100 fly. But the young sophomore had no trouble pulling it off and won this race in an NCAA A-cut, North Carolina record time of 52.39. Annie Fittin, who won the 50 free in a big upset and set the ACC record on day 2, was second in 53.25. Her teammate Ginny Glover was third in 53.66. Virginia’s highest finisher was Meredith Cavalier, who tied for fourth with UNC’s Candace Cooper in 53.72, but they used the depth of 4 A-finalists to not fall any further behind in the team scoring battle.
Duke’s Abby Johnston won her second event of the meet and sealed up a second-straight ACC Diver of the Year award with a big score of 429.05 on the 3-meter. Miami divers Carrie Dragland (377.05) and Lindsay Lester (313.80) continued a huge scoring day for the Hurricanes thanks to 2nd and 5th place finishes. In between them were a pair of Seminoles in Lisi Rowland and Kelsey Goodman. Kat Adham was a third finalist for the Seminoles with a 6th place finish. Florida State, with this finish, looked as though they locked in a third-place finish for themselves.
Virginia reaffirmed their decision to not use any of their 16 roster spots on divers this season, despite an improvement in their program. This allowed UNC, with a 11th place finish from Hannah Hopkins, to pick up a few more points.
400 yard medley relay
North Carolina’s quartet of Carly Smith, Layne Brodie, Katie Nolan, and Rebecca Kane weren’t going to be beaten in this race. They are a strong, solid medley relay all the way through, and they proved that by cruising to an easy win in 3:33.60 without expending a whole lot of effort. Virginia kept it as tight as they could with a second place finish in 3:36.72, though even that placing was in question until their MVP hit the water. Maryland had a 1.11 (how symmetrical!) lead over the Cavaliers after the butterfly leg. But Ginny Glover, who has been swimming very well this meet, showed a little fatigue after her great 100 backstroke performance, and Lauren Perdue showed none after her great 200 free performance. Perdue split 47.71 on the anchor, compared to Glover’s 49.31, to blow the Wahoos into second. Maryland’s third-place time was 3:37.21.
As we mentioned earlier, North Carolina busted into the lead with a dominant team-performance in the 100 breaststroke, but Virginia did their best to hang tight headed into the last day. Carolina has a 37 point lead, and the battle will come down to the final day in what Garrett McCaffrey has characterized as one of the most heated rivalries in college swimming. Nothing better to ask for than a great final day of racing with a team title still in question. After the scores, check out the scenarios for the final day.
1. North Carolina 519
2. Virginia 482
3. Florida State 294
4. Miami 269
5. Maryland 267
6. Virginia Tech 232
7. Duke 164.5
8. North Carolina State 114.5
9. Georgia Tech 108
9. Clemson University 108
11. Boston College 48
Final Day Scenarios
With the meet still in question, there are a few things that need to happen for each team to win.
On paper, Virginia has the advantage on the final day, but the question is do they have enough of an advantage to overtake the deficit. Virginia has a very good chance to go 1-2 in the mile, the first final, and possibly sneak in a third A-finalist in Hillary Petersen. Assuming they save Naurath for the 200 fly, where she’d be the second seed, Virginia should pick up a few points in this event.
In the next event, the 200 back, North Carolina has the better top two (Candace Cooper and Carly Smith) than Virginia (Erika Stewart and Caroline Kenney). The Cavaliers could make up that small point difference if they sneak a few extra swimmers into the B-final, but they really need to root for Maryland’s Glover and Florida State’s Stephanie Sarandos to hold onto their top two seeds. For Sarandos, it would be Florida State’s first event win. This is probably a small North Carolina win, and will leave Virginia between 30 and 35 points behind.
If Virginia plans to make a big move, it’s going to be in the next event: the 100 free. For starters, this is a must-win race for Lauren Perdue. She’s the top seed by over a second, but Annie Fittin was able to overcome a similarly-large deficit in the 50. She’ll also have to fight of Florida State freshman Tiffany Oliver, the third seed, in her best event, and of course North Carolina’s Rebecca Kane. I think that this part will be taken care of, based on Perdue’s performance in the 200. The bigger question mark is whether or not 9th seed Emily Lloyd, who has been swimming very well in this meet, can make the A-final, and also whether Kristen Moores, the 6th seed, can jump a sizable gap to overtake someone in the top 5. Virginia can optimistically hope for Kane to drop perhaps two spots, and Moores and Lloyd to move up two spots each, and Hannah Davis, who A-finaled in the 50, can move up a few spots. Kane could be UNC’s only finalist here, which means that this meet will be very close to even after this event, with perhaps a single-digit Carolina lead.
Though Carolina dominated the 200 breaststroke Virginia has a lot more depth. Brodie should win for the Tarheels, but Virginia’s Kelly Flynn should match that with a second. Both teams should have several finalists in this event, but in the end the scoring will be about even. Still a single-digit Carolina lead.
Both teams have very good 200 butterfliers, but Virginia will almost have to have a 1-2 finish (as seeded) from senior Liz Shaw and freshman Rachel Naurath. Their depth will be just slightly better than North Carolina’s in this race, and though neither Shaw nor Naurath has had a good meet, Virginia is great at rallying around senior leadership late in meets.
All this leads into the final relay with roughly a tie on just swimming. If you add in the diving, that will happen between swimming sessions on Saturday, a best guess is between a 5 and 10 point lead headed into the 400 free relay.
Virginia will almost certainly win the relay, so if they’re within 6 points, the meet will be theirs. If the deficit is more than 6, but less than 10, things will get very interesting. Florida State and Maryland both have very strong sprint corps, and either is capable of finishing ahead of North Carolina. In all likelihood, I see Maryland taking second, and North Carolina finishing third.
But this is all dependent on expectations, and swimming tapers are often entirely unpredictable. That’s why the championships in swimming aren’t decided on paper, and rather in the pool. But this meet will almost definitely come down to a single-digit victory for one team or the other, so make it one to watch tomorrow evening.