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CHRISTIANSBURG, Va. – The No. 11 Virginia women’s swimming team continued competition Thursday at the 2012 Atlantic Coast Conference Championships with preliminaries in the 500 freestyle, 200 individual medley and 50 freestyle. UVa had 15 swimmers compete in the morning session and all 15 made it back in either the championship or consolation final.

“Earlier in the week we talked about how it was going to be interesting to see how our freshmen would handle the pressures of their first collegiate conference championship,” head coach Mark Bernardino said. “They have been spectacular all year long and they continued that today. They had control of their races and just had outstanding performances.”

A pair of freshmen – Alison Haulsee and Kelly Offutt – swam their first races in the 500 freestyle and will join sophomores Rachel Naurath and Caroline Kenney in the final tonight. Haulsee’s time of 4:42.23 was the second-fastest of the morning and just a hair better than Naurath’s 4:42.43. Kenney clocked a time of 4:44.27 while Offutt finished in 4:46.78, all NCAA ‘B’ standards. Classmate Hillary Petersen, swimming in her first ACC Championships, was 12th out of the morning (4:49.28) to earn a spot in the consolation final.

“We got off to a good start in the 500,” Bernardino said. “Rachel swam a very controlled, even race. I am so happy for Caroline Kenney; she really struggled as a freshman and has come back this year to be one of our most consistent and steady performers, day-in and day-out. She has really emerged as a wonderful leader for our team. Alison and Kelly were the first freshmen in the water and had lifetime bests. They led the way.”

In the next race, the 200 individual medley, the Cavaliers placed six swimmers in the final, led by a 1-2 preliminary finish from another pair of freshmen, Sarah White and Ellen Williamson. White’s time of 1:57.74 was the best out of the morning, followed by Williamson’s mark of 1:57.98.

They will be joined in the final by redshirt freshman Megan Fox (1:59.63), seniors Erika Stewart (2:00.00) and Kelly Flynn (2:00.17) and freshman Shaun Casey (2:00.26). Every Virginia time was a NCAA ‘B’ cut. Notably, Stewart was one of six Cavaliers who also reached the finals in this event in 2009 as a freshman.

“We can’t ask for anything more than we got out of the 200 individual medley race,” Bernardino continued. “It really helped us find some separation and some confidence. Sarah and Ellen sitting first and second is awesome. We have a good mix of newcomers and veterans in that race.”

Junior Lauren Perdue had the second-fastest time out of the morning in the 50 freestyle with a NCAA ‘B’ mark of 22.75 and will be joined by sophomore Emily Lloyd (22.84, ‘B’) in the final tonight. Junior Meredith Cavalier was 10th overall (23.01) and will compete in the consolation final.

“Lauren is one of the greatest racers UVa has ever seen,” Bernardino said. “She is our Michel Jordan; she loves to have pressure and thrives in those situations. Emily had a really solid swim, which was huge. Unfortunately Meredith Cavalier mistimed her finish and ended up taking an extra stroke. That’s the sport; we’ll bounce back and be ready to go tonight.”

Finals begin at 7 p.m. and will be available via a live webcast. The 200 freestyle relay will also be contested this evening.

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