Duke swimmers shine in final home meetSeniors Nick McCrory, Hunter Knight, Lauren Weaver and Christine Wixted excelled against North Carolina in their final performances at Taishoff Aquatic Pavilion Saturday.
Despite 12 individual wins, the Blue Devils fell to the Tar Heels 172-120 on the men’s side and 157-134 on the women’s side in their final meet before the ACC Championships.
Duke has faced a number of deep, nationally ranked teams in dual-meet action this season, and its rival North Carolina was some of its toughest competition. The College Swimming Coaches Association of America poll ranked the Tar Heels No. 16 on the men’s side and No. 9 on the women’s.
“Going into this weekend, we knew that they had a tremendous amount of depth,” head coach Dan Colella said. “But I felt like we did what we wanted to do. I think back to several years ago when UNC would go one-two-three in all the events, so to be able to win some events is very important to our ultimate goal. We’re no longer going into the meet with the idea of just competing, but of winning.”
McCrory recorded the Blue Devils’ first individual win with a pool record on the 1-meter springboard, scoring 478.43 points. Sophomore Deon Reid took second ahead of North Carolina’s Ozzie Moyer with a total of 327.00 points. The pair earned first and second again on the 3-meter board. In his final competition at Taishoff, McCrory scored 519.00 points—both a facility and program record.
Knight claimed two other individual wins on the men’s side in the 100- and 200-yard breaststrokes. Recording the fastest splits for every 50-yard increment, Knight finished both events with a comfortable lead. He touched the wall in 55.76 seconds in the 100-yards and 2:02.48 in the 200-yards.
“It’s always good to swim your Tobacco Road rival, UNC,” Knight said. “It was a good way to go out with some high-quality races and competition.”
On the women’s side, Weaver touched first once again in the 50-yard freestyle. Holding a clear lead into the wall, she finished in 23.14 seconds. The sprinter led off the Blue Devils’ 200-yard freestyle relay with an even faster split of 23.07 seconds.
With three individual wins, Wixted had the most impressive day against the Tar Heels. Wixted turned in the fastest split at the 50-yard mark of the 100-yard breaststroke with 29.81 seconds and held on to her lead to finish in a time of 1:03.18. Graduate student Emily Barber recorded the fastest time in back half of the race—nearly half a second faster than Wixted—to touch the wall in second with a time of 1:03.76.
The pair went one-two again in the 200-yard breaststroke. Wixted again held her lead throughout the race and recorded a time of 2:18.23. Barber swam the first 50 yards conservatively, falling a little behind her heat for the first half of the race. She picked up the pace in the back half of the race, first passing North Carolina’s Madison Burns then Abby Fisher in the final lap for a second-place finish and time of 2:18.79.
Wixted had her own come-from-behind swim with the 200-yard individual medley in her final race at Taishoff. She used the breaststroke leg to her advantage, swimming those 50-yards nearly two seconds faster than anyone else in the pool. She finished first in a time of 2:07.81.
“It was kind of a bittersweet meet,” Wixted said. “It’s been a great four years, but to close it out with three wins against a really great time was just really good. I can’t believe it’s almost over.”
Three more individual wins on the women’s side came from two freshmen. Liza Bragg trailed Sarah Hitchens of the Tar Heels until the last 50 yards of the 200-yard backstroke. With the strongest finish in her heat, Bragg out-touched Hitchens by three-hundreths of a second in a final time of 2:04.07.
Maddie Rusch took first place in both the 100-yard freestyle and 100-yard butterfly. Rusch led her heat from the first 25 yards in both events, finishing in 51.12 seconds in the freestyle and 55.95 seconds in the butterfly and foreshadowing another strong senior class in three years.
“I remember in high school just how fast the time went by,” Rusch said. “Being here, even as a freshman, I’m already so close to the seniors that it was still kind of emotional. I knew I had to swim my best, and I wanted them to swim their best.”