And on the final day, the 400-yard freestyle relay finished 12th to have all five UNC relays place.
In NCAA meets, relays count for double the points compared to individual races in the team standings. DeSelm said recruiting the sprinters that excel in these relays became a priority once the coaching staff “got smart.”
“About five to six years ago, we figured out that relays are where the points are,” DeSelm said. “And sprinters win relays.”
In individual performances for the Tar Heels, junior Hellen Moffit finished fifth in the 100-yard butterfly to earn first-team All-America honors, while sophomore diver Elissa Dawson finished in 9th place in both the 10-meter platform and 3-meter board to earn All-America honors on both boards. Dawson was in position to make the finals for both boards, but missed her final dives in each event to drop from 8th to 9th and send her to the consolation finals.
“Normally she’s either fighting to come back or she’s sitting in a good spot,” diving coach Abel Sanchez said of Dawson’s final dives. “I think the nerves may have gotten to her.”
Sanchez was quick to praise Dawson, who earned All-American honors the year before on the 10-meter platform, noting she’s UNC's highest-ever finisher at the NCAAs in diving as well as the highest scoring diver in UNC history at the NCAA championships.
“She had a phenomenal contest,” Sanchez said.
DeSelm noted the team was losing around 20 seniors between both the men’s and women’s teams this year, including many of the top swimmers from the relays in this meet. In order to keep improving, DeSelm said, upperclassmen and incoming first-year swimmers would have to step up.
“There’s a lot of sports to be filled (on) next year’s team,” DeSelm said.
“It’s what they're supposed to do. Come here, earn their degree and move on to be members of society. But it’s gonna hurt.” — DeSelm on the current graduating class leaving.
Senior Ally Hardesty broke the UNC record in the 100-yard freestyle in her leg of the preliminaries in the 400-yard freestyle relay with a time of 48.66. The previous record was 48.67, set by fellow senior Lauren Earp in 2014.
Three numbers that matter
9: Nine Tar Heels earned All-America honors at the NCAA Championships, including eight swimmers and one diver.
18: Dawson led the way for the Tar Heels with 18 total team points earned from her diving performance. Dawson earned nine points apiece for her 9th place finishes in the 3-meter board and 10-meter platform events.
0.03: The number of seconds the 12th place 400-yard freestyle relay was off of a school record. Their time of 3:14.42 just missed beating the school record of 3:14.39
The UNC men’s swimming and diving team competes in the NCAA Championships in Atlanta from March 23-26.