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MINNEAPOLIS – The Virginia men’s swimming team finished eighth at the 2011 NCAA Championships, its highest finish in program history.

The Cavaliers also tallied a program-best 200 points at the NCAA meet, which wrapped up Saturday in Minneapolis.

“It was an incredibly competitive meet against the best athletes of the world so we are incredibly proud of this team,” Virginia head coach Mark Bernardino said. “We faced adversity earlier this year when we lost Fran (Crippen) and I think these guys all year swam for him. That showed again at this meet; this team can say they are the greatest men’s team in the history of UVa swimming.”

The best finish prior to this season was a ninth-place showing in 2009. It marks the third consecutive year the Cavaliers have finished among the top-10 in the nation, also a program first. Virginia was 10th at the 2010 NCAA Championships.

UVa’s highest previous point total came in 2002 when it accumulated 157.5 points and finished 11th.

California won the meet with 493 points. Texas was second (470.5) followed by Stanford (403) in third.

All five Cavalier relay squads earned All-America or honorable mention All-America honors for the third straight year, and for only the fourth time in school history (the other was 2001). It also marked the first time four relays reached All-America status, finishing among the top-8, and the first time all three freestyle relays were in that grouping.

Virginia also crowned its first NCAA champion since 2000 when Matt McLean won the 500 freestyle on Thursday night. The Cavaliers finished the meet with eight All-America performances and seven honorable mention All-America accolades.

It came down to the very last race on Saturday to determine Virginia’s finish, as the Cavaliers placed sixth overall in the 400 freestyle relay. The team of Scot Robison, Peter Geissinger, Tom Barrett and McLean touched in 2:51.83.

“I couldn’t be more proud of those guys,” Bernardino said. “They battled their way into the final and then had a really strong performance with an excellent time. We haven’t talked much about Tom this week but he had a great day today. He was the key guy on the relays both this morning and this afternoon. Peter continues to be a rock solid relay guy for us.”

USC was third in the race (2:50.32) and was able to jump ahead of UVa into seventh place. Both teams were tied with 174 points each heading into the final event.

McLean began the final session of the championships with a fourth-place showing in the 1650 freestyle. He clocked a time of 14:39.62 to collect his third All-America honors in as many individual events of the meet.

“Matt was just spectacular,” Bernardino said. “Earning the title of NCAA champion was very special.”

Senior Taylor Smith earned his first career individual All-America title with honorable mention accolades in the 1650 freestyle. He placed 10th overall with a time of 14:53.99. Teammate Jon Daniec, a freshman, was 24th in 15:16.02.

“This senior class in particular – what a great performance,” Bernardino said. “We got started off tonight with senior Taylor Smith just firing his teammates up. What a brilliant performance; it was wonderful.”

Robison reached honorable mention All-America status after his 10th-place finish in the 100 freestyle. He was second in the consolation final, finishing in 42.66.

“The hallmark of Scot’s career has been greatness, much like Matt,” Bernardino said. “We have been so blessed to have such spectacular young men leading our team in and out of the water.”

Three Virginia seniors – McLean, Robison and Smith – concluded their collegiate careers at these championships.

“We are going to graduate two of our greatest in Matt and Scot and lose an incredibly wonderful performer in Taylor,” Bernardino said. “We are going to have to regroup a little but we will enjoy our terrific season.”

Team Standings – Top 10
1. California 493
2. Texas 470.5
3. Stanford 403
4. Arizona 302
5. Florida 291
6. Auburn 269.5
7. USC 206
9. Michigan 181
10. Georgia 125.5

Virginia’s 2011 All-Americans

Jon Daniec, Fr.

500 Freestyle – 13th (HM)

Matt Houser, So.
200 IM – 13th (HM)
400 IM – 14th (HM)

David Karasek, Jr.
200 Freestyle – 16th (HM)

Matt McLean, Sr.

500 Freestyle – National Champion
1650 Freestyle – 4th
200 Freestyle – 4th

Scot Robison, Sr.
200 Freestyle – 5th
100 Freestyle – 10th (HM)

Taylor Smith, Sr.
1650 Freestyle – 10th (HM)

800 Freestyle Relay – National Runner-Up

Matt McLean, Peter Geissinger, David Karasek, Scot Robison

400 Freestyle – 6th
Scot Robison, Peter Geissinger, Tom Barrett, Matt McLean

400 Medley Relay – 7th
Matthew Murray, Taylor Grey, Peter Geissinger, Scot Robison

200 Freestyle Relay – 8th
Scot Robison, Peter Geissinger, Tom Barrett, David Karasek

200 Medley Relay – 15th (HM)
Matthew Murray, Taylor Grey, Peter Geissinger, Tom Barrett

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