There is hardly ever room for moral victories in the world of sports.
On Saturday afternoon, the North Carolina men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams left Koury Natatorium with a handful of positives from their competition.
Both Tar Heel teams fell to the visiting Texas Longhorns. The No. 21 UNC women were defeated 172-125 by the No. 2 Longhorns, and the No. 22 UNC men were beaten by the No. 9 Texas, 162-137.
“(We) saw lots of season-best times from our group today,” head coach Rich DeSelm said. “So, that’s promising.”
Senior Caroline Baldwin picked up right where she left off last season and continued to dominate. Baldwin started the day by leading the Tar Heels to a first-place finish in the 200-yard medley race. Baldwin, alongside sophomores Caroline Hauder, Emma Cole and Maddie Smith finished with a time of 1:39.07 minutes. UNC has not lost this season in that event.
Baldwin also took first in both the 50- and 100-yard freestyles. Her 50-yard freestyle time was 22.13 seconds — a season-best. The standout swimmer’s time of 48.24 seconds in the 100-yard freestyle will get her name put on the Koury Natatorium wall. It was a pool record.
“I’ve been wanting to get that for a while,” Baldwin said. “It’s a lot faster than where I was this time last year. So, it’s kind of encouraging for the rest of the season. I’m just going to keep working on the details in practice and hope that it all pays off at the end of the season.”
The UNC men’s breaststroke was one of the highlights of the day, as well. The trio of senior Michael McBryan, junior Austin Sellers and first-year Valdas Abaliksta claimed the top three spots in both the 100- and 200-yard breaststroke.
In the 100-yard breaststroke, Abaliksta finished first with a time of 55.42 seconds. McBryan and Sellers finished with times of 55.67 seconds and 56.89 seconds, respectively.
McBryan claimed first in the 200-yard breaststroke with a time of 2:00.56 minutes. He was followed by Abilikstra and Sellers, who finished with times of 2:01.73 minutes and 2:03.05 minutes, respectively.
“We came in with a goal to (finish) one, two, three,” McBryan said. “The captains on the team, as well as the other seniors, have really taken hold of the young energy we have and we’ve just kind of been rolling with it.”
First-year Alvin Jiang and senior Henry Campbell also had first place finishes in their events. Jiang finished first in the 100-yard backstroke with a time of 47.35 seconds. Campbell took first in the 500-yard freestyle with a time of 4:27.00.
Diving also had its fair share of standout performances. The Tar Heels placed first in the three of the four diving events. UNC head diving coach Abel Sanchez was pleasantly surprised.
“I did not expect this — I’ll be honest with you,” Sanchez said. “We’re not there yet. We still have a long ways until the end of the season and we’re barely starting to catch our grove. I’m really, really proud of our guys and girls. I am a little speechless, which is unusual.”
First-year Greg Duncan earned a first place finish in the one-meter dive with a score of 384.90 points. Senior Sean Burston scored 413.85 points to finish first in the three-meter dive.
“I was speechless when I saw the scores go up,” Burston said. “That just shows me, personally, how much I’ve come along since freshman year and how much (better) I can perform.”
Senior Elissa Dawson had a strong outing, as well. Dawson finished first in women’s the three-meter dive with a score of 363.75 points — a season best for her.
“I’m definitely back in the swing of things,” Dawson said. “It’s exciting to be doing better now. (I’m) just focusing on little things for corrections, for each dive. Just trying to beat myself each meet, is usually what I focus on.”
The North Carolina women fell to 2-2 on the season, and the men fell to 1-3.
The upcoming competitions for the Tar Heels are swimming- and diving-specific. The men’s and women’s diving team will travel to West Lafayette, Ind., for the Purdue Invitational from Nov. 16 to 18. The swimming teams will be back in action on Nov. 30 in Knoxville, Tenn., for the Tennessee Invitational.
“We were right there with a team that won the national championship last year,” McBryan said. “(We’re) a very young and energetic team and we’re just kind of rolling with the energy, right into the Tennessee Invite.”