Blue Devils set to swim against rival UNCwhen the Blue Devils face nationally-ranked North Carolina at Taishoff Aquatic Pavilion Saturday before heading into championship season.
The Tar Heels are both nationally ranked and in first place in the ACC. The Tar Heels' men’s team narrowly defeated Virginia last week and is ranked No. 16 in the most recent College Swimming Coaches Association of America poll, and the women currently lead the ACC at No. 7 in the same poll.
“Our game plan is no different than what it was a week ago,” head coach Dan Colella said. “We are going to stand up, race and compete as hard as we can again…We’re going to see some pretty fast swimming this weekend.”
On the men’s side, North Carolina is led by Logan Heck and Jack Nyquist, this week’s ACC Men’s Swimmer and Diver of the Week. Heck has dominated the 50- and 100-yard freestyle this season and has been instrumental in the Tar Heels’ relay success. Heck holds NCAA “B” cut times in both sprint events.
Nyquist has tallied season-high scores of 394.45 and 436.58 points on the 1- and 3-meter springboards, respectively. The freshman will present some of this season’s toughest dual-meet competition for Duke senior diver Nick McCrory.
Stephanie Peacock paces North Carolina on the women’s side with two NCAA “A” automatic time standards in the 500-yard freestyle and the mile. Peacock finished in the top 12 at the 2012 Olympic Trials in three events and competed in the World University Games in Russia, where she won gold in the 1,500 meters and silver in the 800 meters.
Despite the strength and depth of North Carolina’s roster, Colella believes that the Blue Devils can secure a few individual and relay wins.
“We have the opportunity to win some events and surprise them in an event or two,” Colella said. ‘I think the relays, breaststrokes and sprint freestyle can be very competitive. We’ll just have to wait and see.”
To be competitive, Duke will need its top performers to record some of their fastest times this season as they are honored for senior day.
Senior Hunter Knight will have tough competition from David Speese of the Tar Heels in the 100- and 200-yard breaststrokes but could come away with an individual win in either event.
“It’s been a great year for him,” Colella said. “Every time he races, his performances get faster. He is a very muscular individual, so for him to be performing the way he is, I know he’s incredibly excited, and as are we. I suspect that he’s going to be even faster next weekend. He has big goals going into ACCs and beyond.”
For the women, Blue Devil seniors Lauren Weaver and Christine Wixted could also come away from the meet with first-place finishes. Weaver’s race in the 50-yard freestyle will be close against North Carolina’s Hannah Lincoln and Ally Hardesty, while Wixted’s season-best times give her a slight edge against Tar Heel Katie Rechsteiner.
“Lauren and Christine have had great seasons,” Colella said. “They have been performing extremely well. The two of them are absolutely on track to swimming faster than they ever have. They’ve been a big part of the development of this program, so we want to thank them and send them out in style.”
McCrory broke his own pool record on the 3-meter board last week against Virginia. Saturday will be the Olympian’s last opportunity to set a Taishoff record.
The other seniors who will be honored before the meet are Jonathan Derlath, Tyler Fleming, Kelly Hagerty, Eneka Lamb and Tricia Leeson.
“Our seniors this year are phenomenal,” sophomore Chelsea Ye said. “We love our team so much that we just want their senior week to be for them. I think we are definitely going to hit it hard.”