in the three days of competition in Minneapolis, the program’s largest contingent of Blue Devils at the national championships to date rewrote three school records.
As Duke’s season, highlighted by its first NCAA automatic relay qualification, came to a close, Wixted and Weaver saved the best day for last. Both Blue Devil seniors broke school records on the final day of competition.
“It was a great way for Christine and Lauren to go out,” head coach Dan Colella said. “We saw some great things this year, and the future is incredibly bright for the program.”
The pair posted times near their season bests in the first two days of competition.
Weaver touched the wall at 22.35 seconds in her signature event, the 50-yard freestyle. Just off her 22.19-second time from her third-place finish at the ACC Championships, Weaver earned 26th-place in a tight field with less than two-tenths of a second separating her from the last finals qualifier, Olympian Breeja Larson.
In her 100-yard breaststroke, Wixted also finished just shy of her season-best time of 1:00.01 with her 1:00.20 swim. That time placed her 18th—two places short of returning to compete in finals.
“When you look at this meet, especially the 50-yard freestyle, few people actually improved on their qualifying times,” Colella said. “It’s kind of survival of the fittest. Being a little bit off on the first couple of days definitely got them pumped up. They came in the last day with the feeling that this was their last swim.”
On their final day of collegiate competition, Weaver and Wixted both gave record-setting performances in Saturday morning’s preliminaries.
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Weaver took to the water for her final swim as a Blue Devil in the 100-yard freestyle. Dropping four-tenths of a second from her personal best, the senior touched the wall in 49.32 seconds, moving up to 42nd place and claiming the school record.
Wixted finally achieved her goal of reaching finals at the NCAA Championships with a record-setting performance in the 200-yard breaststroke. Qualifying at 15th with 2:09.11, she returned to competition at night to earn Duke one point with her 16th-place finish. Wixted's final time of 2:11.68 earned the senior honorable-mention All-America accolades.
“To make it back at night and final at NCAAs has been one of her goals for the last four years,” Colella said. “It was a great way for her to fulfill that. It was great for us to get on the board.”
Freshmen Maddie Rusch and Jessica Sutherland and sophomores Chelsea Ye and Kathryn Eckhart swam strong relay splits in their national championship debuts.
The 200-yard freestyle relay of Weaver, Eckhart, Rusch and Ye broke the 1:30 barrier for the first time in Duke’s history, turning in a time of 1:29.90. Rusch posted the fastest split of the group with 22.00 seconds.
Rusch took to the water again as the butterfly leg of the 200-yard medley relay with Sutherland, Wixted and Weaver. The group finished just off their school record and NCAA qualifying mark of 1:37.75 with their final time of 1:39.32. The time was still the second fastest in Blue Devil history.
With Wixted and Weaver’s leadership, their younger teammates were not fazed by the size of the meet and the talent of the field. Despite competing in their final races for Duke, the pair made a lasting impact on their younger teammates and the program.
“The seniors have been very instrumental," Colella said. "College swimming is very different from what they experienced in club swimming and in high school. There was definitely great leadership from above, helping, mentoring and developing them.”