by Brian Kuppelweiser
March 1, 2014, GREENSBORO, N.C. (ISN) – For the first time in history, the Virginia Tech men are ACC Swimming & Diving champions.
The Hokies entered Saturday with an eight-point edge on second-place NC State, and clinched the title on the final night of the 2014 ACC Men’s Swimming & Diving Championship at the Greensboro Aquatic Center.
“It feels incredible,” said Virginia Tech coach Ned Skinner. “It was one heck of a showdown between NC State and Virginia Tech, and it is something that I will cherish for the rest of my life. For our student-athletes to experience something of this magnitude is fantastic. They will never forget something like this.”
The Hokies used a strong diving performance and a deep swimming lineup throughout the event and held off a hard-charging NC State team on the last two days. Virginia Tech finished with a winning score of 1264.5, ahead of the Wolfpack with 1226 points. The Virginia Tech divers, who competed last week, scored 205 points to give the Hokies a 182-point advantage on the Wolfpack, which scored 23 points across the three events.
“NC State chipped away at the lead, but it was those diving points that made all the difference,” said Skinner.
North Carolina placed third with 995 points, ahead of Virginia (972), Florida State (957.5), and Notre Dame (907.5). Georgia Tech (543), Duke (482), Pitt (412.5), Boston College (205), and Miami (156) rounded out the field.
Florida State’s Pavel Sankovich became the second male swimmer in league history to repeat as ACC Championship Most Valuable Swimmer, joining Virginia’s Matt McLean (2008-09) as the only ones to win the award in back-to-back years. A senior from Belarus, Sankovich took home six medals – four gold and two silvers – and set four league records on the week. It marks the third straight year that a Seminole has won the award, after Mateo De Angulo was honored in 2012.
“It feels great to win this award,” said Sankovich, “especially for the second year in a row. It is a great feeling, and it is definitely one that I worked hard for this year.”
Virginia’s Bradley Phillips got the first victory of the evening, winning the 1650 freestyle in 14:58.00, 11 seconds ahead of second place. Seeded in the first of three heats, NC State swimmers Austin Snyder (15:09.06) and Adam Linker (15:14.02) posted what turned out to be the second and fourth fastest times to tally 54 points. Virginia Tech junior Jake Ores claimed bronze in 15:09.14 to lead three Hokies that scored 63 points in the event.
A day-long battle between Virginia’s Luke Papendick and NC State’s Stephen Coetzer emerged in the 200 backstroke. In the morning prelims, both swimmers went under the ACC record of 1:41.11 set in 2009 by Florida State’s Andy Hodgson, with Coetzer posting the top mark of 1:40.53. In the championship final, Papendick went 1:40.99 – his exact same time from the morning – to beat Coetzer (1:41.21) for the gold. Virginia Tech’s Collin Higgins (1:41.28) joined Coetzer and Papendick on the podium with an NCAA automatic qualifying time.
NC State made its move in the 100 freestyle, outscoring Virginia Tech 168-52 in the event to take over the meet lead by 17 points. The Wolfpack put one swimmer in the bonus final, five in the consolation final, and took spots one, three, and four in the championship final to take the lead. Simonas Bilis won with an automatic qualifying time of 42.26, followed by Florida State’s Paul Murray (42.59) and Jonathan Boffa (42.60).
Notre Dame’s Zachary Stephens finished the sweep of the breaststroke events after winning the 200 breaststroke on Saturday. The junior finished in an NCAA automatic qualifying time of 1:53.34, a new meet record, ahead of Virginia’s Yannick Kaeser (1:54.29) finished second. Virginia Tech’s Harrison Cefalo (1:55.54) won bronze as the Hokies retook the lead on the scoreboard.
Three swimmers went under the ACC record in the 200 butterfly that had stood since 2003. In the morning prelims, North Carolina’s Ben Colley (1:42.19) and Florida State’s Connor Knight (1:42.46) both went under the record, while NC State’s Christian McCurdy re-set the mark in the championship final in 1:41.72 for his second gold of the week. Virginia Tech’s Morgan Latimer (1:42.58) finished in second, followed by Colley (1:42.86) in third as four swimmers finished with NCAA automatic qualifying times.
Simonas Bilis, David Willaims, Andreas Schiellerup, and Jonathan Boffa closed out the meet with NC State’s fourth relay victory as the Wolfpack won the 400 freestyle relay in 2:50.06, a new ACC record and the second-fastest time in the country this year. Florida State (2:53.27) finished in second and Virginia Tech (2:54.28) came in third.
Of the 18 swimming events on the week, 11 new ACC records and one meet record were set.
All championship information, including event recaps and results, can be found at the official championship website, http://theacc.co/SDchamp. Fans can also get updates by following along on Twitter, @ACCSwimDive.