Mei Christensen broke the ACC record in the 100 back and became the first Cavalier to achieve an automatic qualification to the NCAA Championships Friday on the second day of the UVa Invitational. The third-year from Reston, Va., finished with a time of 52.58 and broke the conference record previously set former Cavalier Brielle White (52.76) in 2006. It was also a school and pool record.
“I tried to have a solid prelim swim this morning and get all the points down, like the turns and kick-offs,” Christensen said. “It is such a short event, you really have to focus beforehand. I was really excited; the 100 (back) is such a fun event.”
“It was another very good evening for the entire team,” head coach Mark Bernardino said. “There was a lot of outstanding swimming, certainly highlighted by Mei’s conference record. She is having one of the most special years that any athlete can hope for. She has matured so beautifully as a swimmer, as an athlete, and her mental approach is rock-solid.”
A total of four pool records fell Friday on the second day of the event. Second-year Claire Crippen set an Aquatic and Fitness Center record in the 400 IM, as did the women’s 200 medley and men’s 800 free relay teams, along with Christensen’s mark in the 100 back.
The Cavalier women have tallied 963 points and lead West Chester (527) and Yale (545). The men, meanwhile, have earned 1,028 points, with Yale second (495) and West Chester (411) third.
“We started great again tonight with the relays,” Bernardino said. “It has been interesting because we have tried to pair up our relays to create really good races. We haven’t yet stacked a single relay; we have tried make it so that we are competing with one another each and every stroke. They are really responding to that.”
In the first event of the evening, the women’s 200 medley relay team of Lauren Smart, Katherine McDonnell, Kristen Wallace and Christensen set an AFC pool record and an NCAA B standard with a time of 1:40.25. It was also just .06 seconds away from the school record. The previous pool record was set in 2001 by North Carolina.
“We are excited to wipe all the old records off the board,” Christensen said. “Especially the ones that aren’t ours.”
Crippen then went on to set a pool mark in the very next event, the 400 IM. The defending ACC champion in the event touched at 4:14.91, an NCAA B qualifying mark. The previous record was also set in 2001 by former Cavalier Mirjana Bosevska. Teammate Liz Shaw placed second in 4:14.91, another NCAA B mark.
Then, in the final event of the evening, the men’s 800 free relay team of Scot Robison, Taylor Smith, David Karasek and Kevin McCarthy set a venue record and earned an NCAA B time, touching at 6:28.43. The previous pool record was set in 2001 with Luke Wagner, Luke Anderson, Troy Johnson and Ian Prichard, who finished in 6:29.13. Robsion’s lead-off split of 1:35.32 was also an NCAA B standard. The team of Darren Ankosko, Matt McLean, John Azar and Tommy Inwood finished second in 6:35.47 another NCAA B time.
The Cavalier women went 1-2-3 in the 200 free led by Jenna Harris who finished with a mark of 1:48.32. Megan Evo came in second, finishing in 1:48.72 and was followed by Kristen Moores in third with a time of 1:49.16. First-year Lauren Smart earned first-place honors in the 100 fly (54.41) with Kristen Wallace placing second (54.91).
Ellie Freeman went on to win the 100 breast with a mark of 1:02.74. Katherine McDonnell placed second in 1:02.96.
In the 800 free relay, two Virginia squads tallied NCAA B marks in the event. The team of Smart, Harris, Shaw and Amanda Faulkner won the event in 7:15.81. Wallace, Evo, Moores and Meredith Perdue placed second, finishing with a mark of 7:18.78.
The men also started strong, placing 1-2 in 200 medley relay. Robison, John Azar, Lee Robertson and Peter Geissinger finished first with a time of 1:30.61 and were followed closely by teammates David Wren, Ryan Huley, Pat Reams and Alex Germain who finished in 1:30.90.
Matt McLean and David Karasek each claimed NCAA B times in the 200 free as they finished 1-2 for the Cavaliers. McLean placed first in 1:35.39 while Karasek finished second with a time of 1:36.95.
The men also performed well in the 400 IM as Darren Ankosko and Tim Hayes placed first and second, respectively. Ankosko finished in 3:51.45 while Hayes finished in 3:52.19. Both are NCAA B qualifying times. Pat Mellors touched at 3:56.18 but was disqualified because of a one-hand touch during the breaststroke.
Lee Robertson paced Virginia in the 100 fly, taking first in 47.84. Robison was second (47.89) and Pat Reams finished third (48.67). Another 1-2-3 finish for the UVa men came in the 100 breast, led by Hurley’s time of 55.27. Teammates Tony Colella (56.37) and Tim Hayes (56.58) placed second and third, respectively.
Robison also won the 100 back in a rare appearance in the event. He finished with a mark of 49.11 and was followed by Dan Johnson (49.49).
The final day of the UVa Invitational begins with prelims at 10 a.m. Saturday. Finals are slated for a 5 p.m. start time.