Led by senior Hunter Knight, Duke set two pool records but fell to Virginia 178-119.
The Cavaliers entered the meet ranked No. 20 according to the latest College Swimming Coaches Association of America Poll and boasted a deep roster behind top performer Parker Camp. The Blue Devils were prepared to give them all they could handle.
“They have a huge tradition of excellence,” head coach Dan Colella said. “We didn’t want to bow down to these guys in any way. We wanted to stand up and race. The goal was to really outperform them—not necessarily win all these events, but know that we had some great swims.”
Duke opened the meet on the men’s side with a win in the 400-yard medley relay. Freshman Kazumu Takabayashi led off with the backstroke leg, and Knight dove in a second behind Virginia’s breaststroker. In his fastest 100-yard breaststroke split the season of 54.89 seconds, Knight gained the lead for the Blue Devils. Freshmen Bradley Cline and James Peek held off the Cavaliers, touching the wall in a final time of 3:21.08.
“To be ahead at the first diving break absolutely was a surprise,” Colella said. “That’s what we need to be doing. The only way we are eventually going to be a team like Virginia is to keep working at swimming as hard as we can.”
Knight’s success continued with an individual win and pool record in the 100-yard breaststroke. After slightly trailing teammate Peter Kropp at the 50-yard mark, Knight came back in the second half of the race to out-touch Kropp by four one-hundredths of a second, finishing in 55.56 seconds. Both Duke swimmers finished more than half a second ahead of Virginia's Yannick Kaesaer.
Facing another close race in the 200-yard breaststroke, Knight turned in a time of 2:02.03, just a few seconds off his season best of 1:58.87 at the Nike Cup Invitational. Taylor Grey of Virginia took first in the event with a time of 2:01.48.
This weekend’s performances mark one of Knight’s best meets this season, despite the difficulty of facing highly-ranked competition.
“When I got up on the blocks, I was really excited,” Knight said. “I could feel the nerves, but I could feel the excitement in the air. I just did what I’ve been training for.”
Senior diver Nick McCrory also broke his own pool record on the 3-meter board Friday. Scoring 480.08 points, McCrory finished more than 90 points ahead of JB Kolod of Virginia in his best performance of the season. McCrory also took first on the 1-meter board with a score of 397.35.
“He’s been doing very well this semester,” head diving coach Nunzio Esposto said. “Of course, he’s been doing well his whole collegiate career…. He did phenomenally considering his knee was bothering him.”
Virginia ultimately outscored the Blue Devils after dominant performances in both backstroke events, the 400-meter individual medley and the 500-yard freestyle.