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The Daily Tar Heel

UNC swimmers record best NCAA finish in 12 years

Last year, Stephanie Peacock helped score 42 of the North Carolina women’s swimming and diving team’s 44 points at the NCAA competition, en route to the team’s first top-20 finish in nine years.

This year, with the reigning 1650-yard freestyle champion battling illness during the postseason, the Tar Heels had to find those points elsewhere.

But they recovered all of Peacock’s points and more. UNC placed 12th in the NCAA competition, which took place between March 21 and 23. It was the highest finish for the Tar Heels in twelve years and the highest finish this season by an ACC team.

“It was a lot of fun,” coach Rich DeSelm said. “They were spirited, and loose, and very excited to reach a team goal they set at the beginning of the fall — to be at least top-12.”

This goal was set in the fall, when Peacock was healthy and expected to qualify for NCAA’s. But illness prevented her from participating, leaving gaps for the team to fill.

“They realized that if the team goals were going to be met, each and every one of the girls that were going needed to do their part to make that happen,” DeSelm said.

UNC scored 38 of its 110 points in the 200-yard butterfly, where Cari Blalock placed third by barely edging fourth-place teammate Meredith Hoover. Katie Nolan followed in 10th place.

Hoover’s preliminary time of 1:54.47 set an ACC record, nearly four seconds faster than where she was at the beginning of the season.

Blalock also earned All-America honors in both the 400- and 200-yard individual medley relays.

The two seniors that competed in the meet led by example, shaving seconds off of their career best times.

Senior co-captain Nolan set a new school record in the 100-yard butterfly, and her time in the 200 was more than 1.5 seconds lower than her career best.

DeSelm said he was extremely proud of every swimmer and their achievements over the course of the season and at NCAA’s.

“We had some outstanding swimming from everybody,” DeSelm said. “We had a great attitude, great team chemistry.”

But DeSelm specifically praised the progress of senior Jackie Rudolph, who joined the team as a walk-on.

Rudolph, swimming the same event Peacock won last year at nationals, took more than five seconds off of her previous career best in the 1650-yard freestyle and placed 14th.

“I told her if she got admitted to the school, she could try out for the team,” DeSelm said.

Rudolph will graduate as an All-American.

She credited the program’s coaches and trainers alongside her own tenacity for her success.

“It’s my own mentality that I don’t like to quit at things,’ Rudolph said. “So I was always constantly trying to prove myself in practice and prove to the coaches that they had made the right decision in letting me join the team,”

Rudolph said her hard work and commitment to the program has taken her places she said she never would have imagined she was capable of going.

“I wanted to do well at NCAA’s, but I recognized the reality that it’s very hard to drop time when I had already dropped like eight seconds at ACC’s,” Rudolph said. “It was my last race, and I just told myself I’m just going to go for it and leave it all in the pool.”

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