The swimming and diving team’s meet against East Carolina Saturday could not have ended in a more dramatic fashion. In a competition that was determined by the final two relays, the women’s team edged past ECU 123-120, while the men’s team fell 124-118.
“Last year they beat both our men and women,” head coach Bob Thompson said. “I think they were a little better prepared than we were, but our teams are equal.”
Both Duke teams entered the final relay trailing the Pirates. The women’s 400-yard freestyle relay team, composed of Alison Sundberg, Danielle Spearman, Anna Rogers and Nora Stupp, shocked ECU after Stupp, Duke’s anchor, clawed her way to a heartstopping come-from-behind victory. Only one-tenth of a second separated the two teams.
On the men’s side, the Blue Devils could not repeat a similar finish in the same relay. Billy Pearce, David Peck, Matthew Rinehart and Ryan Packer were unable to match the ECU squad—the Pirates sped their way to a 3:08.63, narrowly ahead of Duke’s time of 3:09.10.
“You can’t ask for anything more than that, as the competition is concerned,” Thompson said. “We were a little tired, and they were a little more rested. They were ready to go though. Both teams were looking good.”
The Blue Devils finished out of the top three in only one event, and Duke and Eastern Carolina both won 13 races in the very closely-contested meet.
The Blue Devils opened with wins in the men’s and women’s 400-medley relays as the women notched a season-best time of 3:53.63.
The women’s medley relay team, composed of Michelle Aristeo, Jackie Rodriguez, Katie Ness and Julia Lewis, also led Duke in individual events. Aristeo finished the 200 backstroke in first place with a time of 2:05.83. Ness took first in the 200 butterfly and a close second in the 200 IM. Lewis sprinted to first-place finishes in the 50-and-100 yard freestyle events. Rodriguez recorded a victory by holding strong in the 1,000-yard freestyle, but was edged out in the 200 breaststroke by a hundredth of a second.
In the men’s competition, the Blue Devils grabbed the top three spots in the 1,000-yard freestyle with podium performances by Teddy Helfers, Cooper Moore and Andy Storm. Duke swept the medals in the 500 freestyle as Helfers, Moore and Jay Ashenfelter finished first, second and third, respectively.
Diver Patti Frost dominated the three-meter competition and continued the strong precedent already set by Duke’s women divers this year. Tim Hyer secured the second three-m board win of the season in the men’s diving competition along with third place in the one-meter.
Duke’s strong individual performances are also indicate potential success at the upcoming Patriot Invitational, the Blue Devils’ second-biggest meet of the year and the team’s final competition of the calendar year.
“We’re out there swimming very well for this time of year, but the big thing for us will be how we do at the Patriot Invitational,” Thompson said.
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Duke’s next meet is Tuesday against ACC-powerhouse North Carolina in Chapel Hill.