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Jan. 9, 2003

by Greg Driscoll

With the holidays passing and the spring semester quickly approaching, the University of Virginia Men’s and Women’s Swimming teams are gearing up for the second half of their competitive 2002-2003 campaign.

Both teams are currently enjoying yet another successful season under the leadership of 25-year head coach Mark Bernardino. Highlights have included victories over nationally ranked South Carolina and Penn State, and a strong showing at the Auburn Invitational December 5-7.

The men’s performance to date has earned them the #9 ranking in the latest Speedo America’s/College Swim Coaches Association of America Top 25 poll. The women currently stand not far behind at 12th in the country. Bernardino sees it as a “reasonably successful season so far,” but admittedly does not pay too much attention to his or other teams’ particular rankings from week to week.

Heading into Saturday’s meet vs. conference rival N.C. State, UVa has hopes of keeping its unblemished record (3-0, 1-0 ACC) in tact. They square off against the Wolfpack in Raleigh at 1:00 pm in what figures to be a competitive meet. The N.C. State men currently sit atop the ACC with a 6-0 (2-0) record.

N.C. State is just one of the many formidable opponents left on Virginia’s schedule. Other dates include dual meets against fellow conference powerhouse UNC, as well as a contest with Big East Champion Pittsburgh. In addition, the Cavalier men are scheduled to compete in Knoxville against the University of Tennessee, which Coach Bernardino describes as a “major hurdle for the guys to pass.”

“One of our goals for this year was to upgrade our schedule,” Bernardino said, “and to go to places like the Auburn Invitational and knock heads with competition like that is not only beneficial for our team, but also attractive for recruits.”

The upgrade in competition has made conditioning all the more important for the Cavalier swimmers. While they returned home for the holidays from December 21 to January 2, each of them trained individually on an intense prescribed schedule. Since the teams have not faced any outside competition in over a month, pool, weight room, and dry land conditioning have all greatly intensified.

“There’s a reasonably high level of fatigue among our swimmers right now,” Bernardino said. It will take a great effort for the Cavaliers to grind it out the rest of the way.

Ahead of the remaining regular season meets lie the ACC Championships from February 20-22 for the women, and February 27 – March 1 for the men at UNC’s Koury Natatorium. The Cavalier swimmers look forward to finishing out the year strong by capturing yet another ACC title, and their sights will then be set upon the 2003 NCAA Championships at the end of March. However, Bernardino will be sure to keep everyone’s focus on one meet at a time. “On any given day, any team is capable of stepping up and knocking you off.”

The Cavalier men and women eagerly await the second half of their 2002-2003 schedule, hoping that their intense training over the long layoff will provide dividends. “We’re tired of racing one another, pushing one another, yelling at one another,” Bernardino said. “We’re ready to go out and compete.”

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