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The Daily Tar Heel

Swimmers Shift Gears for ACCs

All season long, the ACC's swimming and diving teams have been training and competing in relatively inconsequential dual meets -- all in preparation for something bigger at the end of the season.

Those teams will see if all that work has paid off when the ACC women's championships begin today in College Park, Md.

"(The ACCs) and the NCAA (championships) are the two weeks that you swim the other 50 weeks of the year for," said North Carolina coach Frank Comfort.

The event will be markedly different than the dual meets of the regular season.

While a dual meet involves just two teams and lasts only a few hours, every team competes for three days at the ACC championships. UNC junior Christy Watkins said the event can be draining.

"It's emotional," Watkins said. "By the end you're exhausted, but it's so much fun you don't notice."

Another difference is scoring. At a dual meet, only the top five finishers in an individual race place for points; at the conference meet, the top 16 racers place, rewarding teams with depth.

The judging of diving events also changes. At the ACC's there are seven judges instead of the usual two, and the high and low scores are thrown out.

"It's a different kind of beast," Comfort said.

But it's a beast that UNC (7-2, 4-1 in the ACC) has learned to tame.

The Tar Heels are two-time defending champions, and the team will likely vie for the title again, despite losing to conference rival Virginia 156-144 in January.

Sophomore Jessi Perruquet said she and her teammates aren't worried about the dual meet loss to the Cavaliers. If anything, she believes the loss ended up benefiting the Tar Heels.

"A lot of teams that end up at the top of the nation at the end of the season will have lost dual meets," Perruquet said. "I think losing to UVA was the best thing for us. It gave us that underdog feel again."

Another source of inspiration for the meet will be the opportunity to qualify for the NCAA championships. Although swimmers can qualify for NCAAs at anytime, Comfort said more racers swim their qualifying times at the ACCs.

That is partly because swimmers have been tapering and will be shaved for the conference meet.

Right now only Perruquet and senior Katie Hathaway have qualified for the NCAAs, but Comfort said he expects more Tar Heels to do so this weekend.

"The tradition (here) is to have your best performance this weekend," Comfort said. "It may not happen, but I bet it will."

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