ATLANTA – The 10th-ranked Virginia men’s swimming team used a solid closing performance at the Georgia Tech Aquatic Center in Atlanta, Ga. to claim its fourth straight Atlantic Coast Conference championship. It was the 12th time in the last 13 years the Cavaliers have won the crown and is the 14th ACC title in the program’s history.
UVa topped the scoreboard with 820 points. North Carolina was the runner up with 588 points and Florida State was third at 511.5 points.
Senior Matt McLean was named the ACC Swimmer of the Meet. It was the third time in his career he has won the honor. He was the MVP at the 2008 and 2009 championships.
The Cavalier men matched the UVa women’s team, which won its fourth straight ACC crown last week and the ninth in the history of the program. The feat marks the first time since 1996 that one school swept both the ACC men’s and women’s swimming titles in four consecutive seasons. North Carolina’s programs did it between 1993 and 1996.
“I’m thrilled for the two senior classes,” said Virginia coach Mark Bernardino. “It is pretty spectacular.
“This was a team win. It is not about individuals. It is about men stepping up and swimming for one another and caring for one another and sharing a very special bond. We had former Virginia swimming athletes from the 1960s, 70s, 80s, 90s and 2000s here tonight. Five different decades of Virginia swimmers were here tonight. That’s part of what we promote and what we believe in. When an athlete swims for their team, with their heart, ultimately they will be better as individuals. I think that was personified by our performance over the last four days.”
McLean started the Cavaliers off with a victory in the 1650 freestyle, turning in a NCAA ‘A’ time of 14:42.73. McLean also won the event in 2009. It was the 16th ACC title in his four-year career and his eighth individual title. He picked up a 17th award in the meet’s final race by anchoring the 400 freestyle relay to a win with an ACC record time of 2:51.26.
McLean’s victory in the mile almost didn’t take place. Bernardino approached McLean before the meet with a different strategy.
“I wasn’t going to put him in the mile. I was going to put him in the 100 so he would be fresh for the relay,” said Bernardino. He said, ‘You don’t understand. This is for Fran (Crippen).’ More than anybody on the team, he swam for Fran. There was a real bond between those two guys.”
An 11-time All-American at Virginia, Crippen died in October while competing in an open water race in the United Arab Emirates. Prior to Saturday night’s finals, the Cavalier swimmers who traditionally write a large block V in marker on their chests, added the initials FC at the bottom.
When McLean touched the wall to earn the victory in the 1650 free he leaped out of the water and pointed to Crippen’s initials on his chest.
“It was really special to me because that was Fran’s event and he was a tremendous friend, competitor, mentor, hero and role model for me,” McLean said. “I absolutely love him and it was nice to have a good race to honor him.”
Taylor Smith finished third in the 1650 (15:03.97), Jon Daniec was fourth (15:04.67), Bradley Phillips was fifth (15:10.39) and John Snawerdt placed seventh (15:17.55).
UVa had three runner-up finishes in three other individual events. Scot Robison was second in the 100 freestyle at 42.71, a race he had won the previous two years. Taylor Grey was the runner-up in the 200 breaststroke (1:56.61) and Matt Houser placed second in the 200 butterfly (1:44.68).
Matt Murray was the Cavaliers top finisher in the 200 backstroke, placing fifth at 1:45.02.
McLean, Robison, Geissinger and Tom Barrett led UVa to the 400 freestyle relay victory for the fourth year in a row. Their record-setting time was a NCAA ‘A’ time. The race marked Barrett’s first ACC title.
“I’m thrilled for the program because we are all about team,” Bernardino said. “You could see how we were about team when Scot gets upset in the 100 free and the same guy that beats him (North Carolina’s Steve Cebertowicz), when it came time to step up and race in that relay against him, Scotty was there for his team. He didn’t let them down and he put them in front from the start and it was a lead they were able to hold all the way.”
“When the team comes together and does something, that’s the best thing,” McLean said. “Those are the best memories. We are all about family, tightness, cohesiveness and swimming for each other – Virginia past, present and future. Anything we do together means the most.
McLean said winning four ACC team titles was a goal he had when he first arrived at Virginia.
“It feels good,” he said. “I hope our fourth year class has left a good legacy for the other three classes here and all the upcoming classes. I hope we were able to set a good example.”
“He (McLean) won two events in really high national times and was on two winning relays,” Bernardino said. “I am just thrilled for him and his performance. It was quick a bounce back from a rough junior year. He swam at the top of his game after having some disappoints as a junior. I think that is special. The same goes for Scot. Those are two special people who are leaders in and out of the pool.”
A total of eight UVa swimmers took home championship medals topped by four each for Robison and McLean. Both swimmers won 17 ACC titles during their careers.
Virginia’s 2011 ACC Champions
Scot Robison (4) – 800 freestyle relay, 200 freestyle, 400 medley relay, 400 freestyle relay
Matt McLean – (4) 800 freestyle relay, 500 freestyle, 1650 freestyle, 400 freestyle relay
Peter Geissinger (3) – 100 butterfly, 400 medley relay, 400 freestyle relay
Tom Barrett (1) – 400 freestyle relay
Taylor Grey (1) – 400 medley relay
David Karasek (1) – 800 freestyle relay
Matt Murray (1) – 400 medley relay
Taylor Smith (1) – 800 freestyle relay
2011 ACC Men’s Swimming & Diving Championships
Feb. 23-16 | Atlanta, Ga.
820 2. North Carolina
588 3. Florida State
511.5 4. Virginia Tech
508.5 5. Duke
353 6. Clemson
331 7. Georgia Tech
247 8. NC State
197 9. Maryland
181 10. Boston College
70 11. Miami 13