Once again, the freshman Blue Devils proved this weekend why they are Duke's most highly-touted recruits in recent history.
In their ACC season opener at N.C. State’s Willis R. Casey Aquatic Center Friday, the Blue Devil women dominated Miami 1920-98, but both the men’s and women’s teams fell to N.C. State by 177-115 and 168-121, respectively. Duke had to make a quick turnaround when they took on William & Mary less than a day later for its first home meet of the season at the Taishoff Aquatic Center. Both Blue Devil teams beat the Griffin squads, the men’s team winning by a 144-118 margin and the women 162-100.
Senior captain Hunter Knight said the marathon effort by the Blue Devils is a good signal for their performance in their final competition of the fall, the Nike Cup at North Carolina.
“It bodes really well for the Nike Cup because people performed even better in a preview of a finals-type atmosphere,” Knight said. “Everything’s looking great so far.”
The Wolfpack—who have the No. 23 women’s and No. 19 men’s team in the country—have a long-standing rivalry with the Blue Devils. The women’s swim team has not beaten the Wolfpack since 2008, and the men’s team has lost to N.C. State in every matchup in the last 10 years.
Duke captured individual titles in multiple events, including senior Christine Wixted's victories in the 100 and 200 yard breaststroke events and freshman Maddie Rusch in 100 freestyle, but the Blue Devils were eventually overcome by the depth of the N.C. State squads.
The loss on Friday will further motivate Duke when they face off with N.C. State again at the Nike Cup, freshman Bradley Cline said.
“Their events at the top level are the same as ours, they just have more swimmers who compete at those times,” Cline said. “To beat them we would have had to been on our A-game. We swam well, but not enough to take them down. We hated losing to them, but hopefully we’ll get a little revenge at the Nike Cup.”
Cline took the 500 freestyle event at both meets for the Blue Devils, and notched a season-best time of 4:39 Friday in Raleigh against the Wolfpack. Cline was on a relay team with senior Victory Chen and freshmen Michael Seaberg and James Peek that took second in the 200 freestyle event Saturday against the Tribe.
Senior captain Hunter Knight tallied three first-place finishes Saturday and was also part of a team that won the 200 yard medley relay with freshmen Joey Maginnis, Dylan Payne and James Peek.
“The goal was to just to win the event, but it was a nice addition to doing well on the meet overall,” Knight said of breaking his record. “Overall, I was really happy with how everyone did, and this was just the icing on the cake.”
Senior Nick McCrory, who is the reigning ACC Diver of the Week, won events on both the 1- and 3-meter boards Friday and earned qualifying marks for the NCAA Zone Diving Championships.
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Because of the different start times, each meet brought its own challenges to the Duke teams. The Blue Devils had to contend with an early start and classes during the Friday meet, but Saturday were able to wake up later and devote more attention to the competition.
The back-to-back meets were a test of the team’s stamina, but the Blue Devils seemed to relish the challenge. In fact, many swimmers had their best performances of the season in the second matchup. Knight attributed the Blue Devils' dominance to the home-court advantage.
“People were really excited to finally swim at our home pool,” Knight said. “Just like the football team doesn’t want to lose at Wallace Wade, we don’t want to lose at Taishoff either. We knew what we had to do to get it done, and the extra hype of it being a home meet really helped people to perform.”
Alhough the team is almost half freshman, Cline insists that it is the senior class who take on the largest role on the squad.
“Our role is more of a supportive one,” Cline said. “We have a really strong senior class leadership-wise. They know how to inspire us both in training and in meets and, with such a big freshman class, they do an incredible job of bringing us in the right direction.”