After almost a month since their last competition, it was realistic for the North Carolina swimming and diving team to be a little rusty.
The swim team had not competed since Dec. 2 and had recently completed an annual training trip in Florida over winter break. Meanwhile, the diving team enjoyed a trip in the sun while competing in the Hawaii Diving Invitational.
But in spite of this, the Tar Heels were able to come out strong on Saturday afternoon and sweep the competition. The Tar Heel men (3-3) defeated Penn State, 190-105, and edged out Navy, 165.5-129.5. The No. 21 UNC women (4-2) beat Penn State, 200-91, and Navy, 215-80.
“We haven’t competed since early December, so this weekend was our first chance to get back to that,” head coach Rich DeSelm said. “I was pleased overall with, certainly the effort, and a lot of the outcomes.”
One of the biggest stars of the day was senior Caroline Baldwin. Baldwin finished in first place in both the 100-yard backstroke and the 100-yard freestyle. She also led her team to a first-place finish in the 200-yard medley relay.
“It’s our first meet back since the first week of December, so it was just fun to racing again with the whole team,” Baldwin said. “We had a good training trip down in Florida, so we got a lot of good training in.”
Even though Baldwin’s times were not as fast as her results from earlier in the season, she was still pleased with her performance.
“They weren’t as fast as my times from the fall," Baldwin said, "but knowing the training that we all just put in Florida, I was happy to be where I was."
Some of the Tar Heel swimmers felt fatigued going into the meet because of the training trip that the team took over the University’s winter break. However, they were able to power through the meet and still record victories for North Carolina.
“There was definitely a lot to get back into,” first-year swimmer Alvin Jiang said. “I know all of the guys are more tired than usual. We’ve been working hard, especially coming off of Christmas break. Everyone went home, and then we had the training trip, hit the training hard, but we powered through.”
While Jiang may have felt worn out coming into Saturday’s meet, he didn't let it impact his performance. He took first place in the 100-yard butterfly and the 100-yard backstroke, and was a part of the 200-yard medley relay that won first place. However, he was far from the only Tar Heel swimmer that had a big day on Saturday.
First-year Valdas Abaliksta swept the competition in both of the breaststroke races on Saturday. Abaliksta won both the 100- and 200-yard breaststroke race, while also contributing to the team that won the 200-yard medley relay.
Senior J.T. Casey was another Tar Heel who fared well in the competition. Casey won both the 50-yard and 100-yard freestyle, in addition to winning the 200-yard medley relay.
“It took a lot of mental toughness,” Jiang said. “It was all team effort.”
Even though the Tar Heels were successful in many swimming events, the women’s diving team proved to be the most formidable force Saturday. The Tar Heels swept the top three spots in both the one- and three-meter diving events. Senior Elissa Dawson led the way as she took first place in both events.
“I just wasn’t too worried about it," Dawson said. "I was just having fun, so I had no pressure or expectations. I usually dive better in those situations."
North Carolina will now turn its focus to the ACC schedule. The Tar Heels will have a meet at Virginia on Jan. 20 before returning to the Triangle to face rivals N.C. State at home and Duke on the road.
“There’s definitely some rust when you don’t race for a good amount of time,” Baldwin said. “We have a big stretch coming ahead of us ... so we’re excited to get back into the swing of things.”
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