Junior Mei Christensen was named the 2009 Atlantic Coast Conference Swimmer of the Year, announced recently by the league office. Virginia mentor Mark Bernardino also collected Coach of the Year honors on both the men’s and women’s side.
Christensen backed up her ACC Championships Meet MVP honor after a stellar NCAA Championships, placing fifth in the 100 backstroke and sixth in the 200 back to earn her first career individual All-America honor. The Reston, Va., native also took part in the All-America 400 medley relay team which finished in sixth place as well as three honorable mention All-America relay teams (200 free, 400 free, 200 medley).
“Mei has had an incredible season from start to finish,” Bernardino said. “Her work from September through March is what allowed her to be the recipient of this award. Along with the 100 and 200 back she also set school records in the 50 freestyle and 100 freestyle and was a part of four record-setting relays. It is a real tribute to a young woman who has come an extraordinary long way in her college career and I can only commend her work ethic, spirit, energy and enthusiasm.”
Christensen was part of the ACC record frenzy at the ACC Championships, where she set new league standards in the 100 back (51.79) and 200 back (1:52.22) as well as the 200 free, 400 free, 200 medley and 400 medley relays. She also earned ACC Performer of the Week twice and was named CollegeSwimming.com National Swimmer of the Week on Nov. 19.
Christensen is the 10th ACC Swimmer of the Year in Virginia program history. The last was backstroker Brielle White in 2006.
After guiding the Cavalier women to their second consecutive ACC team title and seventh in program history, Bernardino was selected by his peers as the league’s Coach of the Year. A native of Darby, Pa., he has been recognized for the coaching honor 11 times, eight outright and three as a co-recipient. Under Bernardino in 2009, the Cavaliers boasted one NCAA All-American (Christensen), three honorable mention All-Americans, one NCAA All-America relay team (400 medley relay), four honorable mention All-America relay teams, five ACC individual champions, five ACC championship relay teams and 12 All-ACC performers.
Bernardino picked up another accolade after being voted the men’s ACC Coach of the Year by his peers for the 15th time. He led the Cavalier men to their 12th championship crown as Virginia outpaced the competition at the 2009 ACC Championships with 832 points, the fifth-highest total in ACC history. In 2009, Bernardino’s squad produced two NCAA All-Americans (Matt McLean and Scott Robison), one NCAA All-America relay team (800 freestyle), four honorable mention All-American relay teams, six NCAA All-America honorable mention honorees, six ACC individual champions, three ACC championship relay teams, and 11 All-ACC performers.
“The awards are not mine but are tributes to the teams and their performances,” Bernardino said. “It is a tribute to the great work that the assistant coaches and members of the staff do here. It is an award that is shared by every single swimmer on the team and every single member of the staff.”