Duke divided its roster in half Saturday, pitting Blue against White and giving the squad its first chance to race against friendly competition after tough preseason training. Sophomore Peter Kropp and the Blue Devils foreshadowed an impressive season, knocking down two pool records.
In the first event of the meet, Duke broke the men’s 200-yard medley relay pool record by half a second.
“To do that in the first meet was incredible,” head coach Dan Colella said. “It’s considerably faster than we have ever been this early in the season, and it’s a great indicator of things to come.”
Sophomore Bradley Cline led off with the backstroke leg, followed by Kropp swimming breastroke. Freshman Ryan Nicholson took the butterfly and sophomore James Peek brought home the freestyle, touching the wall in 1:29.45 and breaking the previous Taishoff Aquatic Pavilion record of 1:29.94.
Just a few events later, Kropp stepped back up on the block for the 100-yard breaststroke. Leading the pack from the start, Kropp touched the wall in 53.15 seconds, almost two-tenths of a second faster than his personal best of 53.34 seconds from last season’s ACC Championships.
“Obviously everyone was in awe of that,” Colella said. “We are expecting a lot of exciting things for him this season.”
Kropp’s new pool record shattered Hunter Knight’s previous pool best of 55.65 seconds. As a senior last season, Knight was the sole Blue Devil swimmer on the men’s side to reach the national championships. Knight qualified in the 100-yard breaststroke with his swim at the ACC Championships, where he finished in the same time as Kropp’s new pool record. After achieving a time that would have qualified him for the NCAA Championships last year, Kropp has shown that he is prepared to step up and fill his predecessor’s shoes this season.
The freshman class also gave an impressive performance Saturday, claiming nine individual event victories. The Class of 2018 will look to fill the Blue Devil roster for the 200-yard stroke events and the distance freestyles. The rookies earned a win in all of these events on the women’s side.
Verity Abel claimed the 1,000-yard and 500-yard distance freestyle races, setting a quick pace from the start in both events. In the 200-yard stroke events, Lizzie Devitt took first in the freestyle, Isabella Paez captured the butterfly, Maria Sheridan brought home the backstroke and Catie Miller touched the wall first in the breastroke.
On the men’s side, freshman Matt Johnson also swept the distance freestyle events, and Nicholson won the 100-yard butterfly.
Colella was pleased with the freshmen’s progress through training and their energy in this preseason meet.
“You are always wondering how they will stand up and compete,” Colella said. “The real test will be this coming weekend against Pitt. It was great to see them compete at the level that they did, and we had a number of great results.”
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Duke has opened the past two seasons with the All-North Carolina Invitational but because of the team’s recruiting and meet schedule, Colella decided to hold the first intrasquad meet since 2011.
“One of the things I am always concerned about coming out of the Blue and White meet is that we always have a competition shortly after, and I’m always nervous thinking about how much faster we have to swim,” Colella said. “This past weekend’s results were outstanding, especially after four or five weeks of training. I really couldn’t be happier with everyone’s performances.”