By Jeff White
CHARLOTTESVILLE — The ACC women’s swimming and diving championships begin Wednesday in Atlanta.
Virginia’s goal? To make more history.
The UVa women set a school record in 2010 by winning the ACC title for the third straight year. The Cavaliers hope to be crowned again Saturday night, and they enter the meet as favorites.
Coach Mark Bernardino’s fourth-year swimmers have been especially motivated this season.
“They’re pretty excited about what they’ve done and what they could possibly do before all is said and done,” Bernardino said. “What they can possibly do is be the first women’s class at UVa to win four ACC championships. What they could possibly do is be the first women’s class at UVa to have never lost a dual meet or a championship meet in the conference. What they could possibly do is earn consecutive top-10 NCAA finishes.”
The Virginia women placed ninth at the NCAA championships in 2010.
When the class arrived at UVa in 2007, it had 11 members. Eight remain: Katya Bachrouche, Claire Crippen, Hannah Davis, Amanda Faulkner, Jennings Grant, Kristen Moores, Anne Summer Myers and Liz Shaw.
“This particular group of women has been unbelievable since the day they set foot on the Grounds,” Bernardino said. “I think they have a unique perspective of each other’s talents, each other’s strengths, each other’s weaknesses. They have a great appreciation for one another. They have forged very, very strong friendships, and the bond that they have is incredible. If they go on to achieve these goals, there’s no questioning that you can say anything but that they’re the best class of women to have ever swum at the University of Virginia. Arguably, you can say that already, but as I’ve told them, I won’t say it until they do something that nobody else has ever done.”
Crippen said she and her classmates know what’s at stake in Atlanta. Moreover, she said, “we’re trying to tell our first- and second-years: ‘You guys have an opportunity to continue the legacy that we started. We want this fourth ring for ourselves, but most importantly, we want it for you guys, so keep that streak going within your class and within the class below you guys next year.’ “
When the swimmers who make up the fourth-year class signed with UVa, Bernardino said, he knew they were talented.
“Did we know they would have this potential? No,” he said. “Did we know they were going to be as strong a personality as they were from the day they arrived? No. But they instantly bonded as a group of women, and they instantly said, ‘This is our team.’ You don’t see that happen in a first-year group very often, but they said, ‘This is our team.’ Because right away they were the single largest class [in the program], and they’ve always been the largest class on the team.”
The ACC men’s championships are Feb. 23-26, also in Atlanta. UVa is seeking its fourth straight title and 12th in 13 years.