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CHRISTIANSBURG, Va. – The No. 11 Virginia women’s swimming team continued competition Friday at the 2012 Atlantic Coast Conference Championships with preliminaries in the 400 individual medley, 100 butterfly, 200 freestyle, 100 breaststroke and 100 backstroke. The Cavaliers placed 12 swimmers in championship finals and six more in the consolation races.

Virginia’s Megan Fox and Meredith Cavalier are the top seeds in the 400 individual medley and 100 backstroke, respectively, heading into the evening session.

In the final event of the morning, the 100 backstroke, Virginia earned three berths in the championship final and another in the consolation final. Cavalier’s mark of 53.45 paved the way while teammate Charlotte Clarke finished in 53.55, the second-best time behind Cavalier. Senior Erika Stewart was fourth in the morning with a mark of 54.12. Additionally, Emily Dicus made the B final after coming back from earning a top-8 spot in the 200 freestyle earlier in the morning; she clocked a time of 54.73. All four of UVa’s times were NCAA ‘B’ standards.

“I was very pleased with our girls in the 100 back,” Virginia head coach Mark Bernardino said. “We have excellent performances. Emily had a very difficult double and gave us another consolation finish.”

The Cavaliers placed three swimmers in the final of the 400 individual medley, led by Fox’s NCAA ‘B’ time of 4:10.62. She will be joined by sophomore Hillary Petersen (4:14.63, ‘B’) and junior Christine Olson (4:16.67, ‘B’) in the event final. Freshman Shaun Casey just missed the final with a ninth-place showing in 4:17.80, also a ‘B’ mark.

“We couldn’t have asked for a better start than what Megan Fox gave us in the 400 IM,” Bernardino said. “She just shows the heart and the courage of a real champion. It was great to watch her swim a time I very much believe will make the NCAA meet. We had a solid performance from Christine and in my opinion that was the best swim I have seen from Hillary in her two years at UVa.”

In the next event, the 100 butterfly, freshmen Ellen Williamson and Sarah White paced Virginia with finals berths. Williamson’s time of 52.97 was the second-fastest of the morning. White finished in 53.96; both were NCAA ‘B’ standards. Sophomore Riley Flanagan put up a 12th-place showing with a mark of 54.65.

“It is a real milestone to see Ellen get under 53 flat,” Bernardino noted. “That is a step in the right direction; a really positive step forward. Riley had her first swim of the meet and it was a strong finish; she will have a chance to come back tonight and improve on that.”

Five swimmers are returning tonight in the 200 freestyle, including three in the event final. Sophomore Rachel Naurath was third out of the morning in 1:46.76 and will join teammates Kelly Offutt (1:48.05) and Dicus (1:48.08) in the championship heat. All three of those times were NCAA ‘B’ cuts. Sophomore Caroline Kenney was ninth in 1:48.40 and will swim along with classmate Emily Lloyd (1:48.72) in the consolation heat.

“The 200 free was probably the most disappointing in terms of times,” Bernardino said. “I don’t feel that any of our women swam to their potential in that race this morning. We are going to take a look at it and try to make some adjustments. We were way off the times we had in the relay.”

In the 100 breaststroke, Olson will return in the event final after touching in 1:02.00 during the preliminaries after also reaching the final of the 400 individual medley. Senior Kelly Flynn will compete in the consolation final after her time of 1:02.26 for ninth place, just missing a berth in the final. Both those times were NCAA ‘B’ cuts.

“A huge swim for Christine to come from fifth to first in her heat in the final 25,” Bernardino said.

“We had three ninth-place finishes and to me that comes down to will and courage. You have to want to fight for every inch of a race and we came up a little short in that category today. We are going to talk about this afternoon and try to remember how important that is.”

Finals begin at 7 p.m. and will be available via a live webcast. The 400 medley relay will also be contested this evening.

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