Many of Duke’s teams take advantage of nonconference games early in the season to warm up for ACC competition. But the swimming and diving team plunged straight into its conference schedule Saturday with its season-opening meet against Maryland. The men came home with a strong 177.5-121.5 victory to begin their campaign, but though the women stayed competitive early, they eventually fell to the Terrapins 186-111.
The men kicked off the meet with the successful debut of their new 200-yard medley relay team. Senior Ben Tuben and junior Ben Hwang were joined by two new faces, sophomore Steven Gasparini, who transferred from Clemson after his freshman season, and Fuqua graduate student Piotr Safronczyk, who swam as an undergraduate at the University of Bridgeport but did not exhaust his NCAA eligibility. That team clocked a 1:30.05 in the relay to edge Maryland by a full second.
The squad then fell briefly quiet, ceding first place in the next three events to Maryland swimmers but then stormed back to sweep the 100-yard breaststroke. Safronczyk took first place in 55.85 seconds, and sophomore Hunter Knight and junior Jim Zuponek touched within 0.04 seconds of one another in second and third.
Hwang put on a show in the sprint freestyle, winning both the 50-yard and the 100-yard events, and his 50-yard time met the eligibility requirement for the NCAA championship meet. In longer distance freestyle, junior Matt Carder also earned his team a first place finish with a 4:36.37 showing, and the team closed out the meet by taking the top two spots in the 200-free relay. The top team of Hwang, Safronczyk, Tuben and junior Adam Flur took first in 1:22.09.
The divers did not miss a beat without last year’s national champion Nick McCrory, who is taking the year off from school and NCAA diving to prepare for the 2012 Olympics in London. Junior Jordan Long won the one-meter competition and senior Cody Kolodziejzyk emerged victorious in the three-meter springboard event.
The women’s squad hung with Maryland at the start, taking top finishes in three of the first five events. Senior Rose O’Connor won the 1650-yard freestyle in 16:49.97, freshman Megan McCarroll touched first in the 100-yard backstroke and sophomore Christine Wixted earned a top finish in the 100 breast. But those three wins were interrupted by a Maryland sweep in the 200-yard freestyle and followed by another sweep in the 200 butterfly.
McCarroll and Wixted repeated their victories in the 200-yard versions of their events, and redshirt junior Jessica Lyden won the one-meter diving competition, but that was not enough to bring the Blue Devils back.