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Johnston wins championship

Abby Johnston posted a national-championship winning six-dive score of 409.35 Friday, giving her the program’s first title victory.
Abby Johnston posted a national-championship winning six-dive score of 409.35 Friday, giving her the program’s first title victory.

It’s been a 31-year wait for the women’s swimming and diving program, but after more than three decades of waiting, the program has its first national championship. Junior diver Abby Johnston posted a six-dive score of 409.35 on the three-meter springboard at the Women’s NCAA Championships in Austin, Texas Friday, which won her the first women’s individual national title in school history.

Performing the same program she would use in the finals, Johnston placed fifth in the preliminary round with a score of 338.45, but that was enough to earn her a berth in the finals.

Minnesota diver Kelci Bryant, who won the preliminaries, nipped at Johnston’s heels throughout the finals, but Johnston led from start to finish en route to her title. She started strong by earning a pair of nines and a total score of 25.5 on her first dive, which would prove to be her best of the day. When weighted by the degree of difficulty, the 76.5 points put her tops in the first round, and she never looked back. Her third-round score of 69.75 was also tops for that round, and she never placed lower than fourth in any round.

Senior distance swimmer Ashley Twichell and freshman diver Haley Ishimatsu also competed at the national meet. Twichell was seeded fourth in the 1650 freestyle, and her time of 15:56.73 was good for a career-best fifth place in her final meet. Ishimatsu, on the other hand, has just begun her Duke career, and she took 11th place in the platform diving event with a score of 325.70.

Led by the 20 points earned by Johnston’s national title, the trio garnered 54 points in total, placing the Blue Devils 19th in the nation as a team. The top-20 placing was a marked improvement from last year’s 28th-place finish.

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