Virginia Finishes Fifth at NCAA Championships, Smith Wins 1,650 Free Title
March 21, 2015
GREENSBORO, N.C.–The Virginia women’s swimming and diving team finished fifth at the NCAA Championships, the highest team finish in program history, Saturday (March 21) at the Greensboro Aquatic Center. In addition, sophomore swimmer Leah Smith captured the 1,650 free NCAA title, her second championship of the meet.
“I am extremely proud of this team,” UVa head coach Augie Busch said. “This team’s No. 1 goal on the first day of practice this year was to have the best NCAA finish in program history and we accomplished that. We had several outstanding swims and fought together as a team. We look forward to getting back to work and progress even further next year.”
The Cavaliers finished fifth with 229 points. The program’s previous-best finish was seventh in 1988. California captured the team title with 513 points, followed by Georgia (452), Stanford (363) and Texas A&M (231). Louisville was sixth with 197, followed by Texas (164), USC (163), Florida (129) and Indiana (126).
Smith (Pittsburgh, Pa.) led from the start and increased her lead throughout, winning the 1,650 free by 12 seconds in a school and ACC-record time of 15:34.46. She is also now the fifth-fastest performer in the history of the event. California’s Cierra Runge was second in 15:46.46.
“I owe it all to my coaches and teammates,” Smith said. “They push me every day, and I think last year left me a little bit hungry. I was out for redemption (this year), because I didn’t have the best meet. So, this year, my teammates and I have all been really positive, and we’re trying to make history.”
It is Smith’s second NCAA title this week. On Thursday (March 19), she went wire-to-wire in winning the 500-yard freestyle. She joins Cara Lane as the only Cavalier woman to win two national titles and is the first to win two titles in the same meet.
Smith is now a seven-time All-American. In addition to her two NCAA titles this week, she placed seventh in the 200 free and was part of the 800 free relay that placed ninth, earning honorable mention All-America honors. She placed third in the 1,650-yard freestyle and fifth with the 800-yard freestyle at the 2014 NCAA Championships. She placed ninth in the 500-yard freestyle in 2014, earning honorable mention All-America honors.
Junior Courtney Bartholomew (Holland, Mich.) broke the UVa and ACC record in the 200 back in a time of 1:49.35, placing second only to Olympic gold medalist Missy Franklin of Cal.
In the consolation finals, Jennifer Marrkand placed 16th overall in 1:54.58. Her prelim time of 1:53.28 ranks fourth on UVa’s all-time top-10 list.
Sophomore Laura Simon (Simmern, Germany) earned All-America honors in the 200 breast, placing second in a school-record time of 2:06.65. It is Simon’s second top-eight finish this week, after placing fourth in the 100 breast.
The 400 free relay of sophomore Ellen Thomas (Guildford, United Kingdom), Bartholomew and sophomores Shannon Rauth (Glenmoore, Pa.) and Kaitlyn Jones (Newark, Del.) placed 14th overall in 3:16.13. It is the first time that all five Virginia relays have finished in the top 16 since 2009.
2. Laura Simon 2:06.65 – UVa record
3. Laura Simon 2:07.18