GREENSBORO, N.C. - Cari Blalock won the 400 IM and Lauren Earp and Carly Smith earned runner-up finishes as Carolina's swimming team continued competition Friday in the 2013 ACC Championships at the Greensboro Aquatics Center.
Blalock, a junior from Wilmington, N.C., won her first individual ACC title and became the first Tar Heel to win the 400 IM since Laura Moriarty in 2010. Earp, a freshman from Etobicoke, Ontario, garnered second place in the 200-yard freestyle with a time just shy of the school record. Smith, a red-shirt junior from Chapel Hill, N.C., came back from her year off and represented herself and her school well with a second-place finish in the 100-yard backstroke in a time of 53.05.
UNC remained in sixth place in the team standings after the third day but the Tar Heels made up ground on three of the five schools it is chasing in the standings heading into the final day. Defending champion Virginia is well on its way to the title with 560 points followed by Virginia Tech with 348, Florida State with 340, NC State with 322, Miami with 288, North Carolina with 287, Duke with 174, Georgia Tech with 122, Boston College with 80 and Clemson with nine.
"We made up some ground today and had some nice swims, but still have a huge challenge in the team race. We plan to take advantage of every swim we have Saturday and see how it shakes out," said head coach Rich DeSelm. "I was proud of the team for their great attitude, team spirit and some outstanding swimming in today's events. We plan to have a great prelim session Saturday and come back to swim faster at night. That's our only option to make a run at finishing strong and moving up."
Carolina opened the night with a solid fourth place finish in the 400-yard medley relay. The Tar Heel relay unit included Carly Smith (53.24), Danielle Jansen (1:02.28), Katie Nolan (52.38) and Danielle Siverling (49.34). They combined to post a time of 3:37.24. Virginia Tech won the championship in the event to go along with the title it won in the 200-yard medley relay on Wednesday night.
Cari Blalock then turned in a dynamic swim to win the 400 IM in a time of 4:08.48 as she led an impressive contingent of Tar Heel swimmers in the event. Blalock trailed Virginia's Shaun Casey halfway through the race but she turned in a brilliant breaststroke leg to take a commanding lead and stretched it out in the freestyle to win by a margin of 2.23 seconds. Also swimming in the championship final was freshman Emma Nunn who took fifth place with a time of 4:15.45.
Another freshman, Annie Harrison won the consolation final in the event with a career best time of 4:14.35. She dropped six seconds from her preliminary time in the event to eclipse her old personal best, which was 4:14.47. Freshman Madison Burns placed 12th in 4:21.35 and Kelsey Cummings captured the bonus consolation heat and finished 17th overall in a career best 4:23.28 (previous was 4:25.65). Harrison's time moved her into fifth place on Carolina's all-time performers list behind only Moriarty, Blalock, Polly Winde and Nunn.
In the 100-yard butterfly, Carolina had two top five finishers in freshman Hannah Lincoln, who was fourth in 53.27, and senior Katie Nolan, who took fifth in 53.33. Lincoln had moved into fourth place on the all-time performers list in Friday's preliminaries and she broke her personal best for the second time with her finals swim. She had clocked a 53.48 in the morning heats.
A pair of Tar Heels grabbed Top 4 placings in the 200-yard freestyle as freshman Earp took second place in 1:45.22 and sophomore Danielle Siverling was not far behind with a 1:45.88 good for fourth place. Earp broke her previous career best of 1:45.41 and was just .21 of a second off NCAA champion Jessi Perruquet's school record. She is now the third fastest performer in Carolina history behind only Perruquet and another NCAA champion, Stephanie Peacock. Freshman Ally Hardesty swam in the consolation heat and placed 15th in 1:48.61.
The Tar Heels had three swimmers in the consolation final of the 100-yard breaststroke with Rachel Canty taking 13th in a season best 1:03.14, Danielle Jansen 14th in a season best 1:03.18 and Katie Rechsteiner notching 15th in 1:03.49.
Carly Smith capped off the evening for the Tar Heels in excellent fashion as she swam a consistent race, staying in second from wire to wire to finish in the runner-up spot in the 100-yard backstroke in 53.05. Smith was the ACC champion in both backstrokes in 2011 but missed last year with a medical red-shirt only to come back strong Friday evening. Two other Tar Heels swam in the event with Katie Nolan taking 15th in 54.66 and Rebecca Brooks finishing 16th in a season best 54.80, just .09 off her personal best time.Action in the Championships will conclude on Saturday at the Greensboro Aquatics Center with the preliminary session at 11 a.m. and finals at 7 p.m.