INDIANAPOLIS, IND. - Led by a strong showing in the 200-yard butterfly, the North Carolina women's swimming team finished 12th in the NCAA Championships which concluded Saturday at the IUPUI Natatorium. Coach Rich DeSelm's squad earned its highest national finish since Carolina placed ninth at the 2001 NCAA meet.
"Today was a fantastic day of a great NCAA Championships for our women's team," said DeSelm. "Finishing 12th is huge step forward for our team and our program this year. Finishing in the Top 12 was a goal that our swimmers set for themselves at the beginning of the year. To accomplish that this season is a testament to what a great group they are and how well they got themselves prepared for the end of the season."
Four Tar Heels scored on the final day of the meet as Carolina ended the competition with 102 points for its 12th place finish. The point total was the highest for Carolina at the national meet since UNC scored 110 points while finishing 13th in 2002.
Carolina's top finishers Saturday were junior Cari Blalock, who was third in the 200-yard butterfly; junior Meredith Hoover, who was fourth in the 200-yard butterfly; senior Katie Nolan, who was 10th in the 200-yard butterfly; and senior Jackie Rudolph, who was 14th in the 1650-yard freestyle.
"It's always great to have seniors leading your team and our two seniors at this meet, Jackie Rudolph and Katie Nolan, were not only able to score points and do lifetime best times in their senior years but they were also great examples to all of our other team members that careers can progress in a positive fashion over the course of four years," DeSelm said.
The Tar Heels started out the evening strong with senior Jackie Rudolph placing 14th in the 1650-yard freestyle with a career best time of 16:09.22. She took more than five seconds off her previous career best time of 16:14.49 set at last month's ACC Championships. Rudolph was the 29th seed in a field of 43 swimmers and therefore swam in one of the afternoon heats as only the top eight seeds swim in the finals session at night. She ended up improving 14 spots on her seeded place and also had a 1000-yard split that was also her career best.
"This afternoon, in the heats of the mile, senior Jackie Rudolph, competing in her first NCAA meet as a senior, swam a great 1650," said DeSelm. "At the 1000-yard mark she was five seconds ahead her lifetime best split and then ended up crushing her best time in the mile, going under 16:10. Then, we waited and watched as all the other heats were completed. She ended up scoring in 14th place and making All-America. It was just a fantastic finish to a fabulously improved career for her."
Rudolph's time in the 1650-yard freestyle moves her into fourth place on Carolina's all-time depth chart behind only Stephanie Peacock, Whitney Sprague and Katura Harvey.
Carolina swimmers went on to finish third, fourth and 10th in the 200-yard butterfly, adding 38 points to the UNC team total and allowing the squad to eclipse the 100-point mark. It also helped the Tar Heels secure the highest finish of any Atlantic Coast Conference team.
Junior Cari Blalock was UNC's top finisher in the event in third place at 1:54.65, just edging teammate Meredith Hoover, who was in fourth place at 1:54.65. Swimming in the consolation final, senior Katie Nolan captured 10th place in 1:55.23.
Blalock's time in the finals was .02 of a second faster than her career best done at last month's ACC Championships. In the preliminaries of the event, Hoover established an ACC record by going 1:54.47. The previous conference mark was 1:54.59 set by Virginia's Megan Evo on February 21, 2009. Hoover had gone 1:55.29 at the ACC meet last month for her previous career best time. Altogether she dropped almost four seconds this year off her personal best of 1:58.17 heading into the season. Nolan's time of 1:55.23 was a significant drop off her career best of 1:56.99 at December's Ohio State Invitational. It was also a drop of 3.05 seconds off her best time since the beginning of the season.
Hoover, Blalock and Nolan now rank 1-2-3 on Carolina's all-time depth chart in the event. Blalock also ended up earning first-team All-America honors in all three events she swam in - the 200-yard individual medley, the 400-yard individual medley and the 200-yard butterfly.
"The 200 fly was a huge event for us at conference level and today was another great day in the 200 fly for UNC," said DeSelm. "Meredith Hoover broke the ACC record this morning as we had three great swims in the preliminaries. In the evening, Katie Nolan looked fantastic in consolation final. She took it out great and went another career best going 1:55.23, dropping .98 from the morning and scoring big points with a 10th-place finish. In the championship finals, our two swimmers - Cari Blalock and Meredith Hoover - had almost identical splits with Cari taking third and Meredith fourth. They produced two spectacular swims and it was great to see them on the podium together."
Other swimmers competing on Saturday in the preliminaries with their times and finishes:
Annie Harrison, 25th, 1:55.05
Carly Smith, 44th, 1:57.16
Danielle Siverling, 33rd, 49.20
Lauren Earp, 37th, 49.48
Hannah Lincoln, 58th, 50.13
Meredith Hoover, 4th, 1:54.47
Cari Blalock, 5th, 1:54.75
Katie Nolan, 13th, 1:56.21
Emma Nunn, 22nd, 1:57.69
400-Yard Freestyle Relay17th Place, 3:17.91, Danielle Siverling (49.80), Lauren Earp (49.20), Hannah Lincoln (49.44), Ally Hardesty (49.47)