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March 20, 2013

Hokies again make splash at ACC Championships

By: Jimmy Robertson

The Tech men’s swimming and diving team finished second for the second straight year, while the
women’s team was second as well – its best performance ever at the league’s meet

The Virginia Tech swimming and diving programs continue to make waves in the ACC, as both the Tech men and the Hokie women finished in second place at the ACC Swimming and Diving Championships held at the Greensboro Aquatic Center in Greensboro, N.C., the final two weeks of February.

The men finished in second place for the second consecutive year, while the women’s second-place finish marked the program’s best finish since the Hokies joined the ACC.

“On the women’s side, I was pleased that we pulled it together,” Skinner said. “NC State, Florida State and UNC, all three had beaten us pretty soundly in a dual meet, and we had to overcome some things within our team. They (his swimmers and divers) did a great job of coming together for the cause.

“On the men’s side, we were second last year. I feel like our men and myself wanted to be in position to win. That was our goal, so of course, there is some natural disappointment when we realized that was going to be difficult to achieve. But that makes our men’s performance the last day and a half really special. They didn’t give up and didn’t roll over and quit. If anything, they charged out better than ever. So that leads us to believe we can do this. This isn’t an empty dream we’re chasing here. We want to win conference titles. Second is fine, but it’s not what we want.”

On the men’s side, the Hokies accumulated 597 points to finish behind in-state rival Virginia, which finished with 759.5. North Carolina claimed third with 549 points.

Seniors Gregory Mahon and Zach McGinnis paced the Hokies with a series of superb performances. Both won two individual medals and helped three relay teams earn medals.

Mahon, a Medford, N.J., native, finished second in the 100-yard butterfly, setting a new school record with a time of 46.22 seconds. He just missed first place by two-thousandths of a second. He also claimed a bronze medal in the 200 individual medley, finishing in a time of 1:45.66.

McGinnis, from Raleigh, N.C., broke two school records in claiming his individual medals. He won silver in the 100 backstroke with a time of 46.28, and he took bronze in the 200 backstroke with a time of 1:42.34.

Both were part of the 200 medley, 400 medley and 200 freestyle relay teams that all won medals. The 400 medley quartet of Mahon, McGinnis, Emmett Dignan and Joe Bonk won gold with a record-breaking time of 3:07.17. The time set a school, conference and championship record, and automatically qualified the group for the NCAA Championships.

The 200 medley relay team of Mahon, McGinnis, Bonk and Nathan Hoisington swam the event in a time of 1:25.60 to finish second. The quartet automatically qualified for a spot at the NCAA Championships, while also setting a new school record. Also, the 200 freestyle relay team of McGinnis, Bonk, Mahon and Dignan claimed third in a time of 1:18.06.

“Zach has overcome so much this year, with his challenges with injuries,” Skinner said. “To get a silver and a bronze and lead off a relay that won was just awesome. And Greg is so good and so important to us as a leader and contributor.”

The 800 freestyle relay team also managed to medal. The quartet of Morgan Latimer, Owen Burns, Nick Tremols and Lucas Bureau swam the event in a time of 6:26.80, setting a new school record and finishing fourth. However, NC State’s relay team was disqualified, enabling the Hokies to win a bronze.

Other individuals who placed for the Hokies included freshman Michal Szuba, who claimed two bronze medals. He finished third in the 500 freestyle with a personal-best time of 4:19.03 and then shattered the school record in the 1,650 freestyle by 15 seconds. He finished third with a time of 15:00.14.

Latimer added another individual medal to the Hokies’ count, finishing second in the 200 butterfly. He swam it in 1:43.85, breaking a school record that he had set in the preliminaries.

In the diving events, Tech’s Logan Shinholser had three second-place finishes. The senior from Burtonsville, Md., finished behind Duke’s Nick McCrory in the 1-meter, 3-meter and platform diving events, as McCrory – who did not participate in last year’s ACC Championships while preparing for the Summer Olympics in London last July (he and David Boudia won the bronze in the synchronized 10-meter platform) – took gold in all three.

Shinholser was second in the 1-meter event with 413.50 points, just more than 20 points behind McCrory, who won with 433.95 points. Tech’s Ryan Hawkins claimed fifth in the event, while the Hokies’ Jared Butts was seventh.

In the 3-meter competition, Shinholser finished with 439.65 points, while McCrory won with 498.60. Butts and Hawkins finished sixth and seventh, respectively, in the event.

In the platform event, Shinholser finished with 464.35 points, while McCrory finished with 515.20 to claim gold. Hawkins came in third in the event, and John Trope finished 10th.

“Logan is one of our greatest performers in history,” Skinner said. “He’s going to be missed on multiple levels … I’d argue he’s one of the greatest student-athletes in the history of Virginia Tech athletics, and not just in our sport.”

On the women’s side, Tech won five events, amassing 536 total points, which enabled the Hokies to improve on last year’s fourth-place showing. Virginia won the women’s crown with 832 points, while North Carolina finished in third behind the Hokies with 508 points.

Heather Savage, Weronika Paluszek and Kaylea Arnett all won their events to pace the Hokies, and the 200 and 400 medley relay teams also won for Tech.

Savage, a senior from Canandaigua, N.Y., enjoyed a huge meet in her final ACC Championships. She became a two-time champion in the 100 butterfly, as she swam a school, ACC meet and championship record, and an automatic qualifying NCAA ‘A’ time of 51.78 seconds. Savage also took third in the 200 butterfly, finishing in a time of 1:56.54 and breaking her own school record in the process.

Savage also played a role in both of the medley relay teams winning gold medals. In the 200 medley, Savage, Sabrina Benson, Alyssa Bodin and Katarina Filova edged Miami by 15-hundredths of a second to win. The time (1:38.30) set a school record, and more importantly, was an NCAA ‘A’ standard time, thus qualifying all four for the NCAA Championships. Tech’s women last qualified a relay team for the NCAA Championships in 2010 when the 800 freestyle relay group qualified.

In the 400 medley relay, Savage, Benson, Filova and Paluszek swam a school-record time of 3:34.41 to win. Thus, they became a part of Tech history, as the performance marked the first time that Tech has won two relay events at the same ACC Championships.

“The thing that is amazing about Heather is her will, her sheer desire to perform and race,” Skinner said. “It’s unparalleled. That’s the difference between good swimmers and the best, and that’s how she can get herself into that zone that’s beyond coaching. We’re going to miss her greatly.”

Paluszek, a freshman from Wroclaw, Poland, made a name for herself in this competition as well. In addition to participating on the 400 medley relay team, she won the 200 breaststroke, breaking a four-year-old school record with a time of 2:10.12. She also took home a bronze medal in the 100 breaststroke with a time of 1:00.78.

Arnett, a sophomore from Spring, Texas, led the Hokies’ diving efforts and was named the ACC’s Female Diver of the Year. She won the 1-meter competition for the second straight year, leading the entire way en route to a score of 327.70 points, and she finished second in the 3-meter event with a score of 364.90 points.

Arnett also placed fifth in the platform event with 268.55 points. Kelli Stockton and Sara Mokhtari took sixth (257.85) and eighth (244.50), respectively, in the same event.

“If you look at where we (both programs) were when we first joined the ACC, at the back of the pack, and now we’re second and second, I’m proud of us,” Skinner said. “I’m happy we’re in the upper echelon of the conference, which I think is important for the athletics department.

“Second is not the position I want to be in, though. That’s not what drives me. I want to win. I want to win titles for Virginia Tech. I can’t be satisfied. If we get to the point where we win a title, then I’ll be happy. But not quite yet.”