Senior and Olympic bronze medalist Nick McCrory will lead the Duke divers into action at the Nike Cup Invitational.
Senior and Olympic bronze medalist Nick McCrory will lead the Duke divers into action at the Nike Cup Invitational.

The Blue Devils face three days of competition at the Janis Hape Dowd Nike Cup Invitational this weekend in the last meet of the Fall semester.

After months of tough training, Duke will taper for a few days and enter its first meet of the season with the preliminary and finals format at the Koury Natatorium in Chapel Hill, N.C., starting Thursday.

The meet will simulate the format of the ACC Championships with athletes competing in the morning preliminary heats to secure one of 24 positions for the scored finals swim that evening. Head coach Dan Colella will use this meet to see where his athletes stand.

“To have a meet like this midway through the season gives us an opportunity to rest a few days, which is a good mental and physical break for the athletes,” he said. “And it gives us a benchmark of where we are in our training and an idea of what we need to work on later in the season. There are a lot of things that can be gained from the weekend.”

The Blue Devils will face tough competition. Meet host North Carolina boasts the No. 15 women’s team and No. 16 men’s team and a recently crowned world champion. Tar Heel senior Stephanie Peacock earned gold in her 1,500-meter freestyle at the World University Games in Kazan, Russia, in a record-setting 16:04.44.

Duke seniors Lauren Weaver and Christine Wixted have dominated their events so far this season, but North Carolina's swimmers will give them tough races. Wixted’s 100-yard and 200-yard breastroke will be tested by Tar Heel breaststrokers Katie Rechsteiner and Cari Blalock. Weaver broke 23 seconds in her 50-yard freestyle last weekend and will face Hannah Lincoln, who achieved the same mark in October.

N.C. State’s men enter the meet ranked No. 22, and its women’s team sits just outside the top 25. The Wolfpack defeated Duke 177-115 on the men’s side and 168-121 on the women’s side in Raleigh last weekend. The Blue Devils will look to out-touch N.C. State again in Wixted’s 100 and 200-yard breastroke, Weaver’s 50-yard freestyle, sophomore Kiera Molloy’s and freshman Michael Miller’s 400-yard individual medley and freshman Maddie Rusch’s 100-yard freestyle.

Senior diver Nick McCrory, recently honored ACC Male Diver of the Week for the second time this season, will compete to claim key points for Duke with wins on both the low boards and platforms. McCrory has been the ACC’s top performer in the 1-meter and 3-meter events this season.

“There is going to be a lot of great competition,” Colella said. “It will give everybody a chance to test and see where they are right now. We are expecting some exciting things ourselves.”

This meet will allow swimmers from all three heats of finals to contribute to the total team score, reflecting a recent change to the conference meet’s format. This season the ACC Championship meet will score the third heat for the first time. This could provide Duke with additional scoring opportunities and affect all teams’ strategies for scratching the C final to rest for later races.

“We have had our share in the bonus final,” Colella said. “It’s great that they can finally contribute to the point total, and it gives a lot more meaning to the swim at night.”

Colella is also excited for the freshmen to taper and show what they have gained from collegiate training so far this season.

“A lot of the things that we are doing are very different from what they have done in the past, especially in the volume of work,” he said. “The freshmen have been doing a phenomenal job of adapting.”