Christensen, Perdue, Bernardino Earn ACC Accolades
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – Senior Mei Christensen repeated as the Atlantic Coast Conference Swimmer of the Year while teammate Lauren Perdue was named Freshman of the Year and Virginia mentor Mark Bernardino was voted Coach of the Year for both the men’s and women’s programs.
Christensen is the fourth member of the UVa women’s program to be named the league’s swimmer of the year twice, joining Karen Burgess (1991, 1993), Cara Lane (2000, 2001) and Brielle White (2005, 2006). Overall, it marks the 11th time a Virginia swimmer has earned the title.
“It’s a wonderful surprise,” Christensen said. “It was nice to win it once let alone two years in a row. I am really honored and it feels great to finish off my career like this.”
Christensen, who hails from Reston, Va., won both the 100 and 200 backstroke events for the second consecutive year at the ACC Championships and also earned all-conference honors with a third-place showing in the 50 free. She also swam as a member of three winning relays, including the 200 medley, 400 medley and 200 free relays, at the conference championships.
“It’s a tremendous honor for Mei to be selected because the competition is so extraordinarily high,” Bernardino said. “I am thrilled for her. I don’t think people would have necessarily predicted the success she has had, especially in her final two years, coming out of high school or even after her first year. She has an incredible focus and an incredible racing mentality that you don’t see on a daily basis. She has worked very hard and we are appreciative other people have seen that in her.”
At the NCAA Championships, Christensen put up another All-America performance in both backstroke events, finishing fourth in the 100 and fifth in the 200. Additionally, she was part of the 400 medley, 200 free and 400 free relays that all earned All-America honors at the national meet.
“Mei is such a great teammate and there is no question she deserves this award,” Perdue said. “She is so encouraging and a great leader for our team. She is one of the most humble people I have met and I know she will continue to do great things.”
Christensen leaves Virginia as the conference and school record holder in both the 100 back (51.58) and 200 back (1:52.22).
Perdue, a unanimous selection, becomes the sixth Cavalier to earn freshman of the year laurels and the first since teammate Liz Shaw was awarded the title in 2008. The Greenville, N.C., native was named the most valuable swimmer of the 2010 ACC Championships after winning three individual titles (50, 100, 200 free) and contributing to four winning relays (200 free, 400 free, 800 free, 400 medley).
“I am very honored and excited to be selected,” Perdue said. “We had a great year and everyone has worked so hard.”
At her first NCAA Championships, Perdue picked up All-America honors in the 50 free (fifth place) and 200 free (eighth) and was an honorable mention All-American in the 100 free (14th). She also helped three relay squads, including the 200 free, 400 free and 400 medley relays, in earning All-American status.
“To be a unanimous selection as freshman of the year is really special,” Bernardino said. “The type of success that Lauren had this year is few and far between. She has had an outstanding season and I am hopeful that this is the start of four wonderful years for her. Lauren has worked harder this year and she ever trained in her life. She will continue to improve upon her performances and I don’t feel she has worked yet to the level of excellence she is capable of achieving.”
Perdue set the ACC record in the 200 free (1:43.86) at the conference championships in February and in her first season as a Cavalier also established school records in the 50 free (22.26) and 100 free (48.61).
Bernardino, in his 32nd season at the helm, was tabbed the ACC Coach of the Year for both the men and women for the third consecutive season. It marks his 17th honor for men’s coach of the year and his 12th for women’s coach of the year. Bernardino guided both the men’s and women’s teams to their third consecutive ACC titles in 2010; it also was the first time in program history both squads earned top-10 finishes at the NCAA Championships.
“He does such a great job with our program,” Christensen said of Bernardino. “We as a team recognize him but for everyone else to do so speaks to what a great coach he is. We are continuing to improve as a program and he is the one who got us here.”
“He has prepared everyone to do great things,” Perdue added. “Everything we accomplish is under his guidance and that speaks so much to his hard work.”