The UNC swimming and diving teams hosted the South Carolina Gamecocks at Koury Natatorium and came away with their first dual win of the spring season. The diving teams continued their successful streaks with both men's and women's first and second-place finishes in all categories.
Both UNC’s men and women’s teams started strong, each winning first place in their respective 400-yard medleys. The women’s relay won with a time of 3:35.03, and the men’s with a time of 3:09.85. This was all part of head coach Mark Gangloff’s plan for the meet.
“I knew that if we started off with our relays performing at a really high level and opening up with a couple of victories that we would match up really well with South Carolina,” Gangloff said. “We started with a bunch of momentum and a couple of great wins and just kept that rolling.”
From then on, it was a constant stream of wins for the Tar Heel swimmers, only giving up one first-place finish to the Gamecocks in the women’s 100-yard breast event. The only other South Carolina victories came from the 200-yard free relays, in which UNC only competed as exhibition teams.
Who stood out?
Amongst almost exclusively first-place Tar Heel victories, several swimmers and divers stood out amongst the rest.
Junior Grace Countie won two individual events, the women’s 100-yard backstroke as well as the women’s 200-yard backstroke. Countie also contributed to the women’s 400-yard medley relay victory. Countie doesn’t typically compete in the 200-yard backstroke, but her coaches felt she was ready for the challenge.
“Grace Countie had some really great swims in the backstroke events,” Gangloff said. “We put her in there today and she did a nice job stepping up.”
Along with Countie, sophomore Addison Smith performed remarkably with multiple first-place finishes. Smith came away with triumphs in both the women’s 1000-yard freestyle and the women’s 500-yard freestyle.
On the men’s side, junior Tomas Sungaila and senior Valdas Abaliksta were standouts for their team. Abaliksta won the men’s 100-yard breaststroke, as well as the 200-yard breaststroke, with his best split time being 53.91 in the 100-yard event. Sungaila claimed the 1st place spots in the men’s 100-yard freestyle and the 200-yard freestyle.
First-year diver Aranza Vazquez was undoubtedly the star of the meet. After beating the all-time UNC one-meter women’s diving record just two days prior, Vazquez crushed her own best with a score of 344.03.
When was it decided?
From the beginning, it was clear that the Tar Heels' swim teams were dominating the Gamecocks. Almost every event came out successful for UNC, leaving no room for South Carolina to score many points. Despite a few second-place Gamecock finishes, the visiting team was unable to match the Tar Heel’s speed and endurance.
Similarly, the North Carolina dive teams were high scoring from the start. Both the men and women’s teams securing the first and second spots in every event made certain that the Gamecocks would leave as losers.
Why does it matter?
After a rough season start, this marks the first victory for the Tar Heel swim teams in 2021. Both teams bested the Gamecocks by a wide margin. In diving, yet another record being set by Vazquez shows that this impressive first-year is a force to be reckoned with.
When do they play next?
The Tar Heels will host the Duke Blue Devils Friday, Jan. 29th at 4 p.m. on Senior Day at Koury Natatorium.
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