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Swimming: New meet, usual quest for Cavs’ duo
CAVALIER, MONTES DE OCA READY FOR TRIALS
BY TAFT COGHILL JR.
Meredith Cavalier and Nick Montes De Oca first met as 9-year-olds with similar dreams.
They swam on separate teams in the Rappahannock Swim League, but both were faster than just about everyone else in their age group.
Their youth coaches introduced them and their relationship blossomed as they competed in many of the same major meets on the East Coast.
WHEN: June 25–July 2
WHERE: CenturyLink Center, Omaha, Neb.
Every day this week, we will feature a local person competing in the Olympic Trials:
Yesterday: Josh Friedel
Today: Meredith Cavalier and
Nick Montes de Oca
Nick Montes de Oca
Tomorrow: Caroline Simmons
Friday: Kayla Brumbaum
Saturday: Michael Camper
Cavalier went on to star at Brooke Point High School in Stafford County. Montes De Oca was a standout at Orange.
And when it was time to pick a college to swim for, Cavalier and Montes De Oca took their recruiting trip to the University of Virginia together.
They’re now both rising seniors at U.Va., and they’re set to compete on the same stage once again.
Cavalier and Montes De Oca have both qualified for the U.S. Olympic Trials, which will take place June 25–July 2 in Omaha, Neb.
“It’s very cool that we go back that far together and we’re both from the same area,” Montes De Oca said. “This meet is more on a national scale, but we’re still representing our whole Virginia history.”
Cavalier will compete in the 100-meter backstroke (June 26) and 200 backstroke (June 30). Montes De Oca qualified for the Trials in the 200 individual medley, which takes place June 29.
Virginia coach Mark Bernardino said Cavalier has what it takes to reach the semifinals (top 16) in her events, and “from there, anything can happen.”
Bernardino said Montes De Oca is hoping to achieve a personal-best time and simply enjoy the experience.
“There are definitely a lot of feelings right now,” Cavalier said. “I’m nervous. I’m excited. I’m just ready to swim fast.”
Swimming fast has never been a problem for Cavalier, who earned All-America honors in the 200-yard backstroke this past season. Her time in the preliminary round of the NCAA Division I championships in the event (1:52.89) ranks second-fastest in Virginia history.
Bernardino said Cavalier possesses natural talent, but had to learn to train and compete at the college level.
He said she steadily improved in that area, and her confidence grew, as well. Bernardino said Cavalier initially excelled only in the sprints, but the 200 back is now her best event.
“I think a lot of it was mental,” Bernardino said. “She was very afraid. She didn’t believe she could do anything other than sprint. But the more work she put in the weight room and in the pool, the stronger she got.”
Montes De Oca’s development has been opposite of Cavalier’s.
He entered Virginia as a walk-on. Bernardino said Montes De Oca doesn’t have Cavalier’s natural talent but his work ethic surpasses that of most swimmers the veteran coach has tutored.
“Nick’s story is a great story,” Bernardino said. “He’s one of the most intense, dedicated people on our team. He has an unbelievable heart and an unbelievable will to succeed.”
Bernardino said Montes De Oca has worked tirelessly in every aspect of his life to get the most out of his ability. He achieved the qualifying standard in the men’s 200 IM at the U.S. senior national meet at Stanford University last summer.
“He’s done nothing more than yeoman’s work to reach this level, in everything from sleep to diet to weight room to swimming pool to mental training,” Bernardino said. “He’s done everything he can to reach this level, not so much with God-given talent, but with heart and will.”
Montes De Oca said when he arrived at Virginia, he was always swimming behind everyone else, and that motivated him.
He said he knew he wasn’t a sought-after recruit, so he had to find other ways to impress the coaching staff.
He said chasing his teammates in practice in order to improve “helped me find a good balance between humility and confidence.”
“I came in not very fit and not very fast,” Montes De Oca said. “So I just took advantage of every resource we had here.”
Bernardino said he first met Montes De Oca and Cavalier when they were youths attending his camp. He said they both were vibrant and “excellent people to be around, even in their younger years.”
He now hopes when they compete next week, they leave CenturyLink Arena with no regrets.
“It’s definitely been a whole lifetime commitment to get here,” Cavalier said. “And obviously it’s paying off now.”
Taft Coghill Jr.: 540/374-5526