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Hurricanes Capture Miami Invite Over Vanderbilt

CORAL GABLES, Fla. – The Hurricanes swimming team emerged victorious in its first home event of the fall, finishing off a win over the Vanderbilt Commodores at the Miami Invite Friday.

The Hurricanes (1-1), who carried a lead throughout the three-day event at the Whitten Center Pool, took care of business on the final day of competition to earn a victory over the visitors.

“First things first, I think we’re all so thankful to have gotten to this spot, to have gotten through this invitational, and to have been able to host it,” head swimming coach Andy Kershaw said. “Everyone who was at the pool was extremely thankful for that. It’s a lot of sacrifice.

“We have to recognize the student-athletes, first and foremost, for staying disciplined and getting to this spot, but there are so many other people behind the scenes – university administration to the athletic department administration to the medical staff, facilities people, events people…so many who were making a lot of sacrifices to put people in a position to go out and enjoy this opportunity and enjoy the chance to be together and represent The U. It’s such a special thing.”

As she had all meet, sophomore Aino Otava led the charge with a first-place finish in the 1,650-yard freestyle (16:48.48).

“We recognized as a team that Aino was definitely the ‘swimmer of the meet,’” Kershaw said. “The team gave her an ‘MVP’ chant at the end of the meet – that was great for her. She did so much this week.”

Senior Alaina Skellett had the top time in the 200-yard backstroke (2:00.95) to build on Miami’s lead, while freshman Savannah Barr (50.30) and senior co-captain Carmen San Nicolas (51.05) took the top-two finishes in a razor-thin competition in the 100-yard freestyle. Fellow co-captain Sydney Knapp was first in the ‘B’ final (51.12) of the same event.

“Performance-wise, it was a total team effort,” Kershaw said. “We had a lot of people contribute in a multitude of ways, whether that’s winning events, winning ‘B’ finals, sneaking out points here and there. We have a small team and it takes everyone doing their part to do that, and that’s what we got. It led to a very successful meet.”

After another win from freshman Emma Sundstrand – this one in the 200-yard breaststroke (2:16.57) – Otava added a first-place finish in the 200-yard butterfly (2:01.52). Sophomore Isabel Traba was second in the 200 fly (2:02.03).

The Hurricanes’ top entry in the 400-yard freestyle relay – comprised of Sundstrand, San Nicolas, Barr and Knapp – delivered a dominant end to the meet, winning by more than three seconds (3:22.36).

“The other part of the success comes from the team who was in there grinding in the fall,” Kershaw said. “When they first came back, everything was kind of shiny and new coming out of the quarantine. That was exciting. They definitely had to go through that grind phase and the shine wore off in some of the training. They kept their head down, kept at it, kept working hard and it paid off. It’s so gratifying to see.”

Kershaw can’t help but be encouraged by the performance of his swimming team, who held the lead for all three days of the competition.

“There were tons of great things to take away from this meet, and I’m s super excited and ready to go forward from here,” he said. “We still have a lot of season left and we have put ourselves in a great position to move forward with some momentum.”