After the North Carolina swim and dive team's meet on Saturday, Alvin Jiang and Caroline Baldwin both sit at the top of this season's ACC leaderboards.
Both swimmers recorded conference-best times in their respective 100-yard backstroke events. As a team, the men upset No. 19 Virginia Tech, 166-134. It was the Tar Heels' first win on the season after losing their first two meets against Georgia and South Carolina on the road.
The women's team, which is ranked No. 19 in the country, won their second consecutive meet. In a ranked matchup against the No. 21 Hokies, the Tar Heels won, 178.5-121.5.
Jiang, a first-year, finished the 100-yard backstroke with an ACC-best time of 46.83 seconds, and also won the 100-yard butterfly with a time of 48.15. The former USA Swimming Scholastic All-American stunned in his first collegiate home meet and fed off the home crowd in Koury Natatorium.
“It was insane, like the energy level here,” he said. “Swimming collegiately at a home meet, when all the parents show up, it’s very much in my comfort zone. And I think it really helped me, and the team, show up today.”
The Colleyville, Tex., native knows how much this first win meant for the UNC men’s team, and how it will serve as a huge momentum boost for next week’s home meet. The Tar Heels will host No. 5 Texas on Nov. 11, but Jiang isn’t looking that far ahead.
“We have to get right back into work,” he said. “I think it’s important not to look too far ahead, and just stay in the present mind. And when the time comes, we just race.”
Another first-year who impressed was diver Greg Duncan, who finished second in both the men’s one-meter and three-meter diving events. Duncan, who missed the previous meet against South Carolina due to strep throat, was excited to get in his home pool this week.
“The atmosphere was really cool,” he said. “When the swimmers were able to come over on their break, I just imagined big meet like NCAAs or ACC finals. I love big atmospheres like that. It’s more fun to dive in those atmospheres.”
At the USA Diving National Championships earlier this year, Duncan won a national title in the three-meter dive, but still sees room to improve. As a first-year, Duncan was excited to use what he’s been working on with head diving coach Abel Sánchez for the first time.
Jiang and Duncan are two of 24 first-years on this UNC team, so with all this new talent in the pool, it’s important for veteran swimmers and divers to come in and lead. That’s where senior co-captain Caroline Baldwin comes in.
“I try to improve every single week,” she said. “And help my team in the best way I can, because we have a really young team. But I could not be prouder of the freshmen in the way that they’re doing.”
The former ACC Women's Swimmer of the Week set the ACC season record this meet in the 100-yard backstroke with a time of 52.44 seconds. She also finished first in the 100-yard freestyle and was on the UNC teams that placed first in the 200-yard medley relay and 400-yard freestyle relay.
“Caroline continues to shine,” head swimming coach Rich DeSelm said. “She’s a national, if not world-class, swimmer. Her swims today were very important, and consistent with what she’s done all year.”
Coming into the Tar Heels’ first home meet, Baldwin knew that the familiar atmosphere would bring life to a program with a lot of new blood, but tried to keep the team focused for the stiff competition ahead.
“I think everyone came in this morning pretty hyped up and excited about our first home meet," she said. "But we made a goal in the beginning: doesn’t matter what they’ve done in the past, or what we’ve done, today is the only day that matters."
And as the Tar Heels face a powerhouse Texas team next week, Baldwin hopes the team can carry over the same mindset.
“Texas is an amazing team,” she said. “But, I think we should do the same thing as today, where nothing matters what they’ve done in the past, and we just get our hand on the wall and race the best that we can that day.”