But Saturday’s meet was no different from the competition that goes on each day.
“We push each other,” senior Macey Arnold said. “We race during everything. We challenge each other in the weight room, on dry land, anything.”
The meet was yet another chance for the players to one-up one another, in and out of the pool. While that competition manifested in a cheering contest, the fun and games were over when it was time to hit the pool.
The players knew their fate going forward rested on beating their own teammates.
“They’re competing in practice every day to help one another be better for the team,” Coach Rich DeSelm said. “But they’re also competing for spots in the lineup.”
This dynamic pushes the players to compete against one another, because losing might mean losing their place in an event. So while all the players chant “U-N-C,” they root for themselves when it’s time to race.
“It speaks to the nature of this sport,” DeSelm said. “When the gun goes off, or it’s time for you to dive, it’s pretty much you.”
Competition is as much a part of UNC’s team culture as anything. It has to be. But the players don’t let themselves lose sight of what they are competing for.
“They all want to be number one,” DeSelm said. “But they all also want the team to do well.”
The players know they are pushing one another to be better, so the team will be better. Events such as the Blue vs. White meet, and even practices every day, push the players to improve.
And even though the players have to compete against one another to do so, the battle helps prepare UNC for when another team sits on the other side of the pool.
When that time does come, the players will still compete — against adversaries and against one another. There will really be only one difference.
When the team meets Georgia on Oct. 7, they’ll all be cheering “U-N-C” together.