The freshmen and sophomore classes earned the majority of Duke’s points against Pittsburgh two weeks ago, but the Blue Devils will need a total team effort to carry them through this weekend.
Duke will host UNC-Wilmington Saturday at 11 a.m., followed by ACC competitor Virginia Tech Sunday at 11 a.m. for the team’s first doubleheader of the season.
The Hokie men won the ACC Championship last season thanks to their deep roster’s presence in the A and B finals across the meet’s slate of events. Duke finished eighth. The Virginia Tech women took fifth overall, two places ahead of the Blue Devils.
“Sunday is going to be a big challenge, but we are a totally different team than we were a year ago,” head coach Dan Colella said. “We do stack up really well in a lot of events. If we are mentally ready to bring our A-game, it could be a really competitive meet.”
One of the strengths of the Hokie men's squad is its dominance of the freestyle events. At the Virginia Tech Swimming and Diving Challenge, senior CJ Fiala led the men’s 50-yard freestyle from wall to wall, finishing in 20.56 seconds. Owen Burns claimed first in the 100-yard and 200-yard freestyles at the same meet, posting times of 44.80 seconds and 1:38.74, respectively. In the distance freestyles, Jake Ores dominated the field, touching the wall in 9:14.61 in the 1,000-yard freestyle and 4:31.69 in the 500-yard event.
On the women’s side, freshman Klaudia Nazieblo has asserted herself as a standout performer for the Hokies, taking home wins in both the 200-yard backstroke and butterfly at the Virginia Tech Challenge.
The Blue Devils will challenge Nazieblo in the 200-yard butterfly—one of their strongest events. For Duke to take away a win on the women’s side against the Hokies Sunday, it will also have to beat Virginia Tech to the wall in the sprints. Sophomore Maddie Rusch led the Blue Devils against the Panthers, winning both the 50-yard and 100-yard freestyles with times of 23.39 and 51.58 seconds, respectively.
The Hokies also enter Sunday’s meet with an impressive diving roster on both sides. T.J. Shinholser led a sweep of both the 1-meter and 3-meter springboard events Saturday, with Kyle Butts and Mauro Silva each scoring second and third behind him in both events.
For the women, Kaylea Arnett outscored the field on the 1-meter board, and Ashley Butcher took home the title on the 3-meter.
Sophomore Kirby Quinn led the Blue Devils on the springboards against Pittsburgh with a win in the 3-meter event and will need to step up again this weekend against tougher competition.
Quinn, her classmates and the freshmen posted the majority of Duke’s points against the Panthers. The Blue Devils’ top finisher on the women’s side in every individual event was either a freshman or sophomore, and only one of the eight legs of their two winning relays was swum by an upperclassman.
“We definitely have depth in [the freshman and sophomore classes], partly because they are bigger,” Colella said. “For us to be in a position to win on Sunday, it will have to be a total team effort. It will require everyone stepping up and getting the job done. It’s also in terms of supporting one another and trying to create some extraordinary energy on the sidelines.”
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But before Duke and Virginia Tech square off in an ACC showdown, both teams will compete Saturday. The Hokies will head to North Carolina for their first ACC dual meet of the season, and the Blue Devils will host the Seahawks.
In its meet last Saturday, UNC-Wilmington outscored Emory on the men’s side 152-142 but fell to the Eagles 157-131 on the women’s side.
Senior Valtteri Halonen led the Seahawks, earning wins in the 100-yard and 200-yard backstroke events and 100-yard butterfly. His classmate Drew Gaertner led the way to the wall as the anchor leg of both the 200-yard medley and freestyle relays and won the 50-yard freestyle sprint, touching the wall in 21.35 seconds.
On the women’s side, junior Jenson Engen claimed UNC-Wilmington’s only individual win against Emory in the 200-yard breaststroke, finishing in 2:22.26.
Duke will look to win its first dual meet on the men’s side and second on the women’s side by outperforming the Seahawks in the relays, sprints and distance events before facing its toughest competition so far this season.
The Blue Devils will use these back-to-back meets to simulate the grueling three days of morning preliminaries and evening finals at the ACC and NCAA Championships.
“It’s always important to simulate that NCAA's and ACC's are multiple days and to have the opportunity to race multiple days in a row,” Colella said. “It helps the athletes both mentally and physically. They all laugh because I give the same speech on Friday night at ACC's, but Saturday morning at ACC's is absolutely all mental.”