Wednesday, June 10, 2009

FOV Cavalier of the Year, #5/#6

The official From Old Virginia Birthday is June 10 - that's today - at which time this blog marks its first year of publication. For the birthday celebration, we - that is, me, and you the readers - will name the FOV Cavalier of the Year. My job is to pick the twelve finalists and write a few words about each that tell you all about their accomplishments. Your job is easier: to vote in the poll that will run once all twelve are finished.

Two of the finalists will be highlighted each day this week, today through Saturday. They're in random order with no rhyme or reason implied or intended. Today: Mei Christensen and Sylven Landesberg.

Mei Christensen - Women's swimming - Backstroke/freestyle/IM

Team accomplishments:

- Repeated as ACC champions
- 12th place at NCAA meet

Personal accomplishments:

- ACC Swimmer of the Year
- ACC Championship Meet MVP
- All-ACC Academic Team
- Took six first-place finishes at ACC championship meet
- Set new conference records in 100- and 200-yard backstroke
- Set new school records in 50- and 100- yard freestyle
- Member of four conference-record-setting relays (200- and 400-yard freestyle, 200- and 400-yard medley)
- Earned All-American status with 5th-place finish in 100-yard backstroke and 6th-place finish in 200-yard backstroke at NCAA championships
- Member of All-American 400-yard medley relay
- Member of three honorable mention All-American relay teams

Swimming was my high school sport, so I admit to being a touch biased when talking about the swim teams; that said, I think the facts back me up: The men's and women's swim teams are the most dominant thing we have going here at UVA. The men's tennis and baseball teams have done some fine work, but nobody rolled the ACC like the swim teams. Not only that, but we have more All-ACC Academic swimmers than any other school, which means we have both the fastest and smartest swimmers.

And believe me - it takes high-quality depth, more so than in most other sports, to be successful at swimming. But even with the plethora of great athletes to choose from, Mei Christensen is an easy choice here as a finalist. She's got enough hardware to make Home Depot jealous and more records than U2. And she's a junior this year, which means she'll be back next year to take aim at her own records; one nice thing about being dominant in the Olympic sports is your athletes tend not to go pro after two years.

Sylven Landesberg - Men's basketball - Guard

Team accomplishments:

- Beat Maryland and VPISU
- Otherwise, sucked.

Personal accomplishments:

- ACC Rookie of the Year
- Six-time ACC Rookie of the Week
- Unanimous selection to ACC All-Freshman team
- Second-team Freshman All-American
- Led team in scoring and ACC in rookie scoring with 16.6 ppg
- Team's second-leading rebounder and assist man
- Projected as second-round choice in NBA draft

The basketball team wasn't very good. In fact, it was lousy. Let's just get that out of the way now. That said, Sylven Landesberg was very good, and also, whatever you consider to be the exact diametric opposite of lousy. Landesberg singlehandedly brought a measure of respectability to an otherwise undertalented, inexperienced, and occasionally dysfunctional outfit. But maybe Cavalier of the Year isn't earned only on the field of play (or court, or pool, or whatever); Landesberg was generally considered nearly NBA-ready, and a strong set of pre-draft workouts could have vaulted him into the first round where the guaranteed money is. Despite that, as well as the firing of the coach that recruited him, Landesberg will be back next year, never a guarantee in basketball circles. He was the conference's best and one of the nation's top freshmen - next year, he'll look to take his place among the country's elite.

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