The All-North Carolina Invitational will give Duke’s many new freshmen a taste of collegiate competition at the site of the 2014 ACC Championships.
Any collegiate team with a swimming program—Division I, II, III or NAIA—is invited to the Greensboro Aquatic Center for this second-annual competition. With Duke’s largest recruitment class in years, head coach Dan Colella enters many of his 24 freshmen into this year's meet. Although the season has only just started and the team is not yet focused on racing, the location of the meet provides an obvious attraction for acclimating the class to the ACC.
“This is the only opportunity that the freshmen are going to have to see the facility before the ACC Championship,” Colella said. “We don’t want to miss out on that.”
In early season training, the new Blue Devils have already shown their desire to compete at the collegiate level.
“It’s not only a very big class, but it’s also a very talented group,” Colella said. “There’s a lot of potential. We are excited about what we have been seeing in training. The group has been a nice fresh injection of new blood. It’s only going to make everyone better.”
They join 16 returning athletes on the men’s side and 18 on the women’s side, including seniors Hunter Knight, Lauren Weaver and Christine Wixted and three-time NCAA platform diving champion Nick McCrory—four All-ACC performers. This meet will give a rough sense of where the freshmen might fall in the larger lineup, Colella said. The Blue Devils begin competing in dual meets in three weeks, and Colella will have to select a travel squad.
Last year at this meet, the men took second and the women took third, both behind meet host N.C. State. Although the potential new depth of the team could bode well for competition, the emphasis this weekend will not be on the team’s score.
The divers will not be competing in the meet this weekend, and the swimmers will only race Saturday, opting instead to continue with their training on Friday. Racing in only one day’s events, Duke will willingly sacrifice the potential points and fall out of contention for the top team scoring positions.
“We are midway through our very first training cycle,” Colella said. “Training has definitely stepped up in the last couple of weeks. It’s only going to continue to increase in the coming weeks. And training has been a lot more competitive.”
However, the Blue Devils still have an opportunity to make a statement with strong performances from the returning and freshman groups.
Wixted and Knight can be expected to place well in the breaststroke, both returning to the meet to defend their victories in last year's 100-yard races. The freshmen will have the chance to prove why Colella believes they are the strongest recruiting class he has seen in years with the opportunity to score for Duke in their first meet of the season.
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