While the men’s meet was all but decided early on, the outcome of the women’s tri-meet between Virginia, North Carolina, and NC State was in question until the final few events. In the end, behind a strong performance from Kaitlyn Jones in the 200 IM, Virginia held on to defeat the upstart Wolfpack, 154.5-145.5. The Cavaliers also closed out the arch-rival Tarheels, 178-122. In a battle for state pride, NC State clipped UNC, 162-138.
NC State won both relays and controlled the sprint freestyles, but UVA’s top-end talent proved to be just enough. Courtney Bartholomew took both backstrokes (52.64 and 1:54.84), Leah Smith swept the 200-500-1000 trio (1:46.44-4:43.74-9:34.21), and Laura Simon doubled up in the breaststrokes (1:00.87 and 2:12.96). The Cavaliers also got victories from Kaitlyn Jones (200 IM) and Jen Markand (200 fly).
Despite all of those wins, NC State continued to counter. After taking the opening relay behind a great back half from Natalie Labonge and Riki Bonnema, they finished 2-3 in the 1000 behind Hannah Moore (9:46.79) and Rachel Muller (4:50.51) to ease a clear Leah Smith win.
UVA won the next four wins (including a 1-2 200 fly from Markand and Jones), but NC State responded, taking three straight events of their own. First, Ashlyn Koletic (22.62), Riki Bonnema (22.78), and Courtney Caldwell (22.97) finished 1-2-3 in the 50 free. After Rachel Mumma won the 1-meter diving, Natalie Labonge came back to win the 100 free in 49.49. The Wolfpack men have been a sprint force at the national level for the last several years, but the women’s sprint group deserves similar publicity. They cracked the top 8 in the 200 and 400 free relays at 2015 NCAA’s, and all four swimmers on both squads are back this season.
UVA came back for three more wins, but head-to-head, NC State finished at least 2-3 in each event to limit the damage. The Wolfpack continued to close the gap with a strong showing in the 100 fly, but Kaitlyn Jones’ win in the 200 IM secured the meet for the Cavaliers.
Not to be lost in the shuffle, North Carolina kept things interesting with a couple wins of their own and a group of second place finishes. Hellen Moffitt, who’s been looking like she’ll have another breakthrough season down in Chapel Hill, nearly dethroned Bartholomew in the 100 back (52.72 to Bartholomew’s 52.64), and later grabbed the win in the 100 fly (53.33). UNC scored in both medleys at NCAA’s last season, and their top-8 prospects hinge on Moffitt’s ability to register a superstar-level split. .
Moffitt was the only individual swimming winner for the Tarheels (Elissa Dawson took 3-meter diving), but Rachel Canty and Allyn Hardesty had notable performances, as well. Canty grabbed second in both breaststrokes (1:01.83, 2:14.82), and is really making a case to take over relay duties in March. Hardesty was second in the 200 free (1:47.33)
This was the last dual meet for Virginia and NC State, while UNC travels a short distance to take on the Duke Blue Devils this afternoon.