Winter break is a time when most busy Duke students can finally relax after a busy semester—common activities include gorging themselves with homemade cooking, enjoying the comforts of home and hopefully spotting the first snowfall of the year.
But for some Blue Devils, winter break meant warm weather and a working vacation.
The men’s and women’s tennis and swimming and diving teams embarked on trips to tropical locations around the globe to train for their respective seasons. Also soaking up the sun was women’s golf senior Lindy Duncan, who took first place in the women’s category at the Copa de las Americas Tournament in Miami, Fla. Duncan and her partner, UCLA sophomore Erynne Lee, also came in third place in the men and women’s overall category.
“We would have liked to win both [divisions], but we did pretty well,” Duncan said. “But I know what I need to work on now. There are a couple of things that I know I need to focus on going forward.”
Family and friends made the half hour drive from Duncan’s hometown of Fort Lauderdale, Fla. to watch her play at the Doral Resort and Spa, the site of the tournament and home of the course infamously named the Blue Monster.
“Being in Florida was awesome,” Duncan said. “I’ve never gotten to play the Blue Monster, but they have a lot of professional events there so it was really cool to play that course, even though it was really tough.”
But the best part of her trip?
“It was like 80 degrees everyday,” she said. “It’s hard to beat that.”
Also enjoying the hot weather were the men’s and woman’s tennis teams, who traveled to Honolulu, Hawaii to participate in the Hawaii Invitational. Both teams went undefeated in the tournament, with the No. 5 men’s team going 9-0 and the No. 3 women’s team going 17-0 to kick off their respective spring seasons.
“A big thing was getting lots of practice outdoors with two days of matches,” women’s head coach Jamie Ashworth said. “But mainly, the priority was team building. We got to spend some time as a team before the season really starts, talking about different team goals and how we want to present ourselves.”
Both teams took advantage of the many attractions Hawaii has to offer. Their activities included snorkeling, hiking up Diamond Head Volcano, touring the Dole Pineapple plantation and, most memorably, cage diving in Waikiki Beach’s shark-infested waters.
“Shark diving in a cage—that was definitely an especially fun trip and definitely a great team experience,” Ashworth said.
Meanwhile, 6,000 miles away, the swim team marked the midpoint of its season with a trip to Barbados. Although it did not participate in any meets, the team practiced for five hours a day, said head coach Dan Colella.
“Pretty much every year we go on a training trip during a time when we’re out of school so we can really focus on training,” he said. “We were training for two and a half hours in the morning and again in the afternoon. But it’s nice to go someplace warm. One of the benefits of being in a place like Barbados is that it gives [the team] an incentive to work a little harder knowing that they’re in a beautiful place.”
The Barbados trip came at the perfect time: The team only has two meets left before ACC Championships take them through March.
“At the beginning of the season, you’re really excited, but once you get to the halfway point it really drags on from working out that long,” senior Matt Carder said. “I think [the trip] was a good way to really focus before we make that last push into the last part of the season.”
Although the trip was characterized by “a lot of swimming,” Carder said the team also found time for some fun.
“We did take one afternoon off and a large group of them went on a snorkeling excursion with sea turtles,” Colella said. “Also our hotel arrangements were out on the beach so between workout sessions you could find a lot of swimmers soaking up the sun.”
Even though each team was far away from each other geographically, they shared the same goals.
“All of our big tournaments are in the spring, so the tournament really helped me figure out the parts of my game I really want to work hard on,” Duncan said. But while the tennis and swim teams also improved for the spring, they found that being with a team away from the pressure and routine of Durham allowed for a type of “forced team bonding,” Carder said.
“When you go to a place like this, you typically squish four people into a room and you’re stuck on a plane with someone for five hours,” he said. “But you always end up with great stories about certain things that you wouldn’t talk about at school.”
The tennis teams’ time in Hawaii also served as the perfect time for the team to come together.
“They play fall tournaments but not as a group, so here we tend to learn about each other’s personalities and how to deal with each other in good times and bad,” Ashworth said.
As Duncan gears up for the spring season, the men’s and women’s tennis teams will face Elon and William and Mary, respectively, Saturday and swimming will battle Virginia Sunday. Their training trips will serve as an invaluable springboard for the rest of the season, so these stronger, worldlier and tanner Blue Devils can prepare for the spring.