Duke—along with 20 other teams—faced high winds and rain in Clemson, S.C., as it attempted to build some momentum for the nearing postseason. Despite struggling in Saturday's races, the Blue Devils notched four top-five finishes to close out competition Sunday.
"Our times were definitely slower because of the wind we dealt with," senior Grace Cassidy said. "We were in one of the outside lanes, and we were just getting hit so hard from the wind. We did do some switches between Saturday and Sunday. The varsity eight and the varsity four definitely paid off."
Saturday did not start the way Duke had hoped, with a fifth-place finish in the varsity eight and sixth-place finish in the second varsity eight in their respective heats.
But after the rough opening day of competition, Duke was able to rebound Sunday with a stronger outing, posting a third-place finish in its heat in the varsity eight. Cassidy attributed the improvements to some roster changes made Saturday night and adjustments to the wind.
"We raced first in the morning and conditions were pretty bad," Cassidy said. "It was raining, which rain is fine, but the wind was really not letting up at all. So that was pretty hard, some of the race times were pretty slow, just from the wind."
The varsity four team also came on strong Sunday, jumping four spots from the previous day to finish second and knock 57 seconds off their time posted Saturday.
The Clemson Invite is one the team's favorites, as the stands lining the finish line and open water are a far cry from their practice spot at Lake Michie in Bahama, N.C. But the Blue Devils also relished the opportunity to go up against similarly-ranked competition.
"This weekend is a regatta where all the teams are ranked 12th to 30th right now," Cassidy said. "[It's] all the teams that are fighting for those last spots for NCAAs, so that's kind of what makes it feel exciting—the fact that anyone can beat anyone at this regatta."
The Blue Devils will look to build on this weekend's performance when they head to Charlottesville, Va., for the UVA Invite April 26. That event will give Duke the chance to take down fellow ACC opponent Syracuse in the season's first matchup between the two programs.
"[The UVA Invite] is our last race before ACC [Championships] and we're going to get to directly race Syracuse, head-to-head," Cassidy said. "All season we've been comparing our times with them, comparing the margins we have with other crews with the margins they have off of those main crews. So we're going into it knowing it's going to be anyone's race."