Day 2 of the Women’s ACC Championships has wrapped up in Atlanta. Here’s a look at 6 big themes we noticed amidst the day 2 action:
1. A closer-than-anticipated team race? Virginia has won this meet seven years running, and early on today, it sure looked like the Cavaliers might just power away with #8. But at days end, UNC only trails Virginia by 28 points, a drop in the bucket in a meet that scores to 24th place and gives out 32 points for an event win. Virginia did outscore UNC big-time on the day, including 119 total points in the 500 free alone. But the Tar Heels are hanging around just enough to keep this Virginia team on its toes, especially considering most of the Cavaliers’ top threats don’t look fully rested. Tomorrow features a whopping 7 event finals, so we should learn a lot more about the team battle as the day goes on.
2. First-ever ACC Championship in any sport for Louisville: The Louisville Cardinals joined the ACC for the first time this year, some of the last movers from the last round of college conference realignments. And according to the Louisville Swimming Twitter account, the school got its first-ever ACC champion in any sport when Tanja Kylliainen won the 200 IM. That’s a big accomplishment for an exciting Louisville program that seems to get better each year, and is currently in the hunt for third in the new conference.
3. Bonnema & NC State’s freestyle factory: The North Carolina State Wolfpack are starting to build a reputation as a freestyling machine. Riki Bonnema was the headliner, winning the 50 free and breaking the ACC record in prelims. She also split a wicked 21.47 leading the 200 free relay to another conference record. But equally impressive is the improvement NC State is showing in distance, where sophomore Rachel Muller went a lifetime-best 4:43.21 to win the B final of the 500 free. That time would have been 5th overall. Building a sprint program is one thing. But building a program well-rounded enough to compete in all distances is another giant step for the Pack.
4. Reaney’s IM gets axed: Defending conference IM champ Emma Reaney hit some adversity on day 2. After finishing second in the 200 IM, the Notre Dame senior was disqualified from the event, a huge blow to Notre Dame’s point totals, which rely heavily on the versatile American record-holder. Live results note that the DQ came on the back-to-breast turn. That probably comes as a relief to Irish fans, as Reaney won’t swim any more back-to-breast turns, whereas an issue with underwater pullouts or two-hand-touch turns would have had potential to affect Reaney’s breaststroke swims.
5. Worrell focusing on fly? It’s been interesting watching the evolution of Louisville junior Kelsi Worrell. Prior to last season, Worrell was a sprint fly/free hybrid swimmer who typically swam the 100 fly and 50/100 frees. She broke out in the 200 fly last year, and seems to be on the road to being more of a primary butterflyer who dabbles in freestyle. Case in point: Worrell’s 22.01 in the 50 this morning was only a tick faster than she was in winning the ACC title last year (22.02). In contrast, Worrell has been phenomenal in the butterfly races, including the fastest 50 fly split in history (we think, rankings of relay splits are unofficial) on night 1. Even if Worrell merely stays the same in her freestyle races, but continues to rocket onto the national scene like she has in the butterflys, we’re guessing Louisville will consider it a very favorable tradeoff.
6. Virginia still awfully tough in the pool: We opened this list talking about how Virginia doesn’t look as dominant as they were perhaps expected to be, but we’ll close it with a note on just how scary this team still is. Even though a lot of the team’s top swimmers don’t appear to be fully rested, the Cavs had 14 different swimmers score individually on night 2, including 8 different A finalists in three events. Though diving stung them a bit, and the 50 free wasn’t their best event, Virginia is showing they’re still a force to be reckoned with, even when things aren’t going entirely their way.