Duke outscored Georgia Tech by more than 40 points on both the men’s and women’s sides in the teams’ last meeting in 2009 but could only replicate that result in part in Saturday’s dual meet in Atlanta.
The Blue Devil women clinched their eighth victory of the season 196-104 with first-place finishes in 12 of 16 events. On the men’s side, Duke fell 200-88.
The women’s squad controlled the meet from the opening race, but the men, already behind 26 points by forfeiting the diving events, got off to a slow start. Three Blue Devils false-started in the 400-yard medley relay, and freshman Matt Johnson also left the block early in the next event, the 1,650-yard freestyle.
“We need to be aggressive on starts; that’s the way we approach it,” head coach Dan Colella said. “Obviously we don’t enjoy seeing teams get [disqualified], but I think they immediately put it behind them.”
Peter Kropp gave Duke its first of four event wins in the 100-yard breaststroke, touching the wall more than a second ahead of the heat in 55.33 seconds. The sophomore put even more time between himself and Yellow Jacket breaststrokers Mark Sarman and Ricky Lehner in the 200-yard event, earning his second individual win of the meet with a 2:02.44 finish. Sarman was next to the wall in 2:06.94.
The Blue Devils claimed two more events before the end of the meet. Sophomore Bradley Cline held off Mark Keaveney in the 200-yard backstroke, taking the win in 1:50.61. Cline finished second in the 400-yard individual medley behind teammate Michael Miller.
Miller won the final individual event of the meet with a strong back half of the race. With the fastest breaststroke and freestyle splits, Miller took control of the heat after the backstroke, finishing in 4:01.03. Cline touched second in 4:05.62.
“For the two of them, they are maturing as athletes and understanding how to not get caught up in the emotional side of things and how important it is to execute a well-though-out plan,” Colella said. “When you do that, you get results.”
Despite the highlight swims, the Blue Devils were not able to keep up with a deeper Georgia Tech roster.
On the women’s side, freshman Leah Goldman earned three of Duke’s 10 individual wins and led off the top-scoring 400-yard freestyle relay. Goldman took the 100-yard freestyle in 51.93 seconds and the 100-yard butterfly in 55.53 seconds. Departing from her usual slate of events, she also swam the 100-yard breaststroke, taking first again in 1:04.12.
The 200-yard freestyle was a breakout race for Brittany Friese. The sophomore led the event from the start, splitting 26.16 seconds at the 50-yard mark—a second ahead of the heat. She extended her lead in the middle 100 yards and brought the race home in 29.01 seconds. Friese finished in 1:52.40, a significant drop from her previous dual meet time of 1:56.02 against William and Mary in November.
“Brittany was really outstanding today,” Colella said. “It was a real breakthrough from some previous performances, and she was definitely feeling good about it.”
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Colella had hoped that the opportunity to race at the site of the 1996 Summer Olympics would inspire the squad to keep up their energy through the whole meet and reverse a recent trend in dual meet performances. The Blue Devils have started and finished their meets aggressively with dominant performances in the medley and freestyle relays but have stalled in the middle events.
Duke had no trouble keeping up its momentum Saturday. Winning both relays and 10 individual events, the women outswam the Yellow Jackets from start to finish to earn their eighth dual meet win of the season.
“We talked a lot this week about making sure that we stayed determined and stayed on top of things throughout the entire meet,” Colella said. “They feel and appreciate the opportunity to swim in a facility like this.”
The Blue Devils will need to keep up that energy heading into Friday’s race—their final dual meet of the season—at North Carolina.