Blue Devils race ACC at Clemson
In the first 12 years of the ACC championships, Virginia has won the team title all but once. The No. 1 Cavaliers enter Saturday as the favorites once again, with the top-seeded boat in each of the four events. Junior Emily Theys and Duke’s second-seeded varsity eight will lead the Blue Devils as they try to knock off the nation’s best team en route to their first conference title. Tournament host Clemson will also pose a threat to Duke and the Cavaliers with second-seeded boats in three of the four races.
“We know that Clemson and Virginia are both going to present big challenges because they have in the past races that I’ve raced against them,” Theys said. “We definitely feel confident that we can pose a challenge to Clemson, and if we execute everything to the best of our ability, it could be interesting between us and Virginia as well.”
Coming off wins at the Knecht Cup and the San Diego Crew Classic, Duke’s varsity eight boat will have plenty of momentum. In addition, the second varsity eight boat is coming off a second-place finish in its division of the Knecht Cup.
“Had we not done well at the Knecht Cup or at the Crew Classic, it would have been like we were fighting an uphill battle,” Theys said. “The momentum definitely helps build the confidence.”
Regardless of the recent strong performances, the Blue Devils face a steep challenge in racing the Cavaliers for a championship. Virginia swept six races at the UVa Invitational last weekend against a field that included three ranked opponents.
In order to be successful, Duke’s boats will have to race aggressively and execute well in the first 500 meters, head coach Robyn Horner said.
With a championship at stake, Theys’ experience will be of great value to the Blue Devils. The junior, who was invited to the 2012 U23 National Team camp on April 10, participated in the same camp last summer and raced in the 2011 U23 World Championships in the women’s quadruple sculls, bringing a new perspective on her sport back to Duke.
“When you transition from high school to college, you think you know how to go hard,” Theys said. “But after training at the international level, you know what ‘hard’ can really be. I’ve tried to transfer a work ethic that I’ve learned at camp that ‘you can always give more’ to Duke.”
This year, Theys has brought a higher level of energy to the team on a daily basis, Horner said, and her attitude has helped inspire the varsity eight boat to the fastest times they have ever recorded.
“Emily’s bringing that day-to-day expectation of speed, and because we have really good senior leaders,” Horner said. “They’ve gotten on board with that, and it helps them practice at a really high level and race at a really high level.”
From her experience at national team camp, Theys also developed a greater understanding for the importance of teamwork and unity.
“You need a good team dynamic if you want to do well,” Theys said. “And right now, I think our boat has a great team dynamic…. On paper, we may not be as fast or as strong as Virginia, but passion is just as important.”