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Claire Crippen and the Virginia men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams open the 2009-10 season at 1 p.m. Friday against Florida at the Aquatic and Fitness Center. Crippen and the Cavalier women are coming off their second straight ACC championship and a 12th-place finish at the NCAA Championships. She recently caught up with VirginiaSports.com to talk about opening the season, swimming against her sister, and the team’s goals for this year.

Question: Are you excited for the season to start?
Crippen:
Yeah! Last week we had an intrasquad scrimmage and I think that was a big test to see if we were ready. Everyone swam really well so we are all pretty excited to swim against Florida They are going to be our toughest competition in the first semester so it will be a good test to see where we are right off the bat.

Question: What are the advantages, or maybe disadvantages, of opening up against a strong team like Florida?
Crippen:
I don’t think there are any disadvantages – it’s only something we can learn from. As long as we out there knowing we are as good as them, with that mindset, we can’t have any disappointments. We know we are on an equal playing field and if we just keep that in prospective we will be just fine.

Question: Last season, you swam for the first time against your sister, Teresa, down in Gainesville. Will it be different this time around with her coming to swim in your home pool?
Crippen:
It’s going to be different. This will definitely be more competitive than last year, for me at least. Last year was her first year and she was just getting a feel for it. This year we both know how it works. It’s going to be interesting. Hopefully we will swim some of the same events – I know she is swimming distance (freestyle) events. We’ll see.

Question: Are you still going to cheer her on even though she is wearing a different suit and cap?
Crippen:
Probably! She is still my sister even though we are on opposite sides of the pool. I want her to do well.

Question: Have you been able to experience college swimming together even though you are at different schools?
Crippen:
Absolutely. This summer we were roommates at the World Championship Trials and I stayed with Florida and their team. We hung out a lot last year at NCAAs and had a couple meets last year where we could see each other. She is friends with girls and guys on this team and I am friends with girls and guys on Florida’s team.

Question: And your brother Fran, a Virginia alum, had a good summer on the open water circuit. Does he offer any advice to you?
Crippen:
He is doing really well. He was just in China. He tries to stay out of it – he knows what we are doing and how difficult it is. When he was in our shoes he never wanted that advice from my older sister unless he asked for it. And sometimes we do ask them for advice. But he never just chimes in. He lets us do our thing and we are appreciative of that.

Question: Back to this team, what are the goals for this season?
Crippen:
Every year we want to be ACC champions but I think this year our goals are a lot higher, considering how well we did at NCAAs. We want to be a top-10 team and have a whole team at NCAAs. We want to win five relays at ACCs and have as many All-Americans and have everyone who has been to NCAAs make it back.

Question: There is so much time between now and ACCs and NCAAs. How do you continue to stay focused on getting better in the short term?
Crippen:
It’s our responsibility as a team to keep pushing each other and remind people of our individual goals and team goals throughout the season so we keep our focus. We always have to know what is ahead of us and with our schedule the way it is, we have different goals each week. We just need to be able to refocus.

Question: What about for you personally?
Crippen:
My goal first and foremost is to be a good teammate and a good team leader for our underclassmen. I want to be an ACC champion again in the 400 IM and make the top-three in my other two events. I want to make NCAAs, beat my sister, and keep the family record in the 200 IM.

Question: Is the 400 IM still for your favorite event to swim?
Crippen:
To race, yes. The 200 IM is a little short for me. I have more confidence in the 400 and know my race strategy by now, I know when to turn it on. I am still learning how to swim the 200. I also like switching out my strokes like that. I don’t like just one, I like to change it up.

Question: Do you feel like you have a target on your back being the two-time conference champion in the 400 IM?
Crippen:
Absolutely. Each year it gets harder and harder and this year is going to be no exception. I have teammates around me that push me everyday in practice. I have faith in them to keep me going.

Question: Have you declared a major yet?
Crippen:
Psychology with a minor in religious studies. I am thinking about teaching, but I’m not sure yet. I’m just taking it one step at a time. But psychology is the only thing I can read for more than a half hour at a time without getting bored.

Question: Since it’s now October, what would you say has been your favorite Halloween costume?
Crippen:
Last year I was Santa’s little helper. But since I went trick-or-treating until I was a senior in high school, I have a lot to choose from. I’m not embarrassed by it! My mom used to make our Halloween costumes when we were younger and I have to say that my best was when my sister and I went as Minnie and Mickey Mouse, and I was Minnie. But last year is up there.

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