GREENSBORO, N.C. - Led by championship performances by Cari Blalock in the 200-yard butterfly and UNC's school record-setting 400-yard freestyle relay team, the North Carolina women's swimming team surged to a third-place finish Saturday night in the 2013 ACC Championships at the Greensboro Aquatics Center.
Coach Rich DeSelm's swimmers distinguished themselves on the final day as Carolina climbed past Miami, NC State and Florida State in the team standings to place third. Carolina has finished first, second or third in all 35 ACC championship meets ever held (since 1979). The Tar Heels were ninth after the first day and sixth after both the second and third days before their excellent final day of swimming moved them into the top three.
"We had an awesome day capping off three and a half days where he had to climb out of a pretty dark hole," said UNC head coach Rich DeSelm. "I couldn't be prouder of our team. We ended up third. That's now 35 years in a row we've been first second or third. Tonight, given what we were dealt with and the place we found ourselves going into today, taking third tonight's just feels pretty good.
"We're going to work hard to improve that situation down the road. Our women did so well today. We had lifetime performances up and down the roster."
Virginia won the championship with 832 points and other teams finished as follows: Virginia Tech 536, North Carolina 508, Florida State 497, NC State 438, Miami 389, Duke 246, Georgia Tech 158, Boston College 98 and Clemson 10.
It was a night full of record setting swims and career bests for Carolina. The night ended on a high note as Carolina's 400-yard freestyle relay team, which includes three freshmen and a sophomore, won the conference title in the event for the first time since 2007. Carolina finished with a school record time of 3:15.88, well under the NCAA automatic qualifying time of 3:17.27. The relay consisted of sophomore Danielle Siverling (49.48) and freshmen Lauren Earp (48.58), Hannah Lincoln (48.35) an Ally Hardesty (49.47). The old school record was 3:17.10 which was set in 2009 by the tandem of Rebecca Kane, Eliza Butts, Megan Steeves and Katura Harvey.
"We just had an awesome relay," DeSelm commented. "We broke our school record by well over a second. We had a leadoff with Danielle Siverling going 49.4, Lauren Earp had a great split at 48.5, Hannah Lincoln, another freshman, had a 48.3 and Ally Hardesty, another freshman, at 49.4. It was exactly what we needed to secure third place."
In the previous event, junior Cari Blalock of Wilmington, N.C., broke her own school record in the 200-yard butterfly and snared her second individual championship of the meet. On Friday, she had won the 400-yard individual medley in convincing fashion as well. UNC swimmers finished 1-2-4 in the event and with their swims assumed the top three spots on UNC's list of all-time performers in the event.
Blalock's championship came in 1:54.67, just missing the NCAA "A" cut by .07 of a second. Her previous school record was 1:56.06 set a year ago. Junior Meredith Hoover took almost three seconds off her previous career best to finish as the runner-up in 1:55.29. Her previous best time was 1:58.17 and she is now the second fastest performer in UNC history. Freshman Emma Nunn was fourth in 1:56.85 as she moves into third place on the all-time chart. Senior co-captain Katie Nolan was the fourth championship finalist for Carolina in the event as she placed seventh in 1:58.96.
"The 200 fly ended up being a very pivotal race for us tonight. Cari Blalock broke the school record and Meredith Hoover was second, Both of them came from behind as (Virginia Tech's) Heather Savage went out really fast," said DeSelm. "Our girls kept their composure and worked it through the second 100 and got their hands on the wall."
The Tar Heels had started the night on a very positive note as senior Jackie Rudolph made the podium with a bronze medal finish in the 1650-yard freestyle. Rudolph destroyed her career best in a magnificent swim, going 16:14.49, including a 1000-yard split at 9:50.63. Her previous personal bests were 16:22.58 and 9:53.46, respectively. She is now the eighth fastest Tar Heel performer in the 1000 and seventh fastest performer in the 1650. Carolina sophomore Kelsey Cummings was also a championship finalist as she placed eighth in 16:34.98
Tar Heel swimmers took home the 3-4-5 spots in the 200-yard backstroke. Freshman Annie Harrison led the charge with a career best 1:54.79 (previous was 1:55.08) followed by Carly Smith at 1:54.91 and Rebecca Brooks at 1:56.88. Harrison's time makes her the second fastest performer in UNC history behind only Tar Heel record holder Smith.
UNC swimmers turned in three career best swims in the 100-yard freestyle. Lauren Earp was the top finisher for Carolina in seventh place at 49.43, a time which moves her into the seventh spot on the all-time performers list. She was upstaged slightly by Danielle Siverling in the consolation final as the sophomore notched a career best 49.19 to win the heat and take ninth overall. Her previous career best was 49.37 and her new time places her third on Carolina's all-time list behind only Richelle Fox and Rebecca Kane. Other Tar Heels in the event included freshman Ally Hardesty in 12th with a career best 50.20 (previous was 50.40) and sophomore Nikki Barczak in 16th at 51.65 (season best 50.28 in prelims). Freshman Hannah Lincoln just missed the consolation heat but blew away the field in the "C" final to win in a career best 49.85, taking 17th overall. Her previous best was 51.15.
Katie Rechsteiner was Carolina's top performer in the 200-yard breaststroke with a seventh place finish in 2:14.68. In the preliminary session she went a career best 2:13.71 (previous was 2:14.03) and thus is now sixth all-time at Carolina. Freshman Rachel Canty was 11th in a season best 2:15.41, a clocking which qualified her for ninth on UNC's all-time performers list. Madison Burns finished 19th in 2:20.60.Carolina finished with nine All-ACC swimmers, the most since the 2007 team had 11 selections. This year's group includes Lauren Earp, Jackie Rudolph, Cari Blalock, Meredith Hoover, Carly Smith, Annie Harrison, Danielle Siverling, Hannah Lincoln and Ally Hardesty.