With the conference meet right around the corner, the Blue Devils previewed a promising postseason at the Carolina College Invitational in their first multiple-session meet of 2015.
Duke took to the water in Chapel Hill’s Koury Natatorium for the second time in as many weeks, racing to career-best times and six individual wins in the inaugural unscored event Saturday and Sunday. The team competed against select swimmers from host North Carolina, James Madison, N.C. State, Old Dominion, UNC-Wilmington and William and Mary.
The Blue Devil men (4-6, 0-4 in the ACC) had struggled with their 200-yard medley relay for the past two meets with early takeoffs on aggressive exchanges at both Georgia Tech and North Carolina. Against the Tar Heels, three of the four Duke relays were disqualified for false starts.
The Blue Devils needed a fast but legal swim for a seed time for the ACC Championships. They did more than achieve that goal Friday, nearly breaking the facility record en route to their first provisional NCAA cut in a relay this season.
“We were really excited about everybody’s performances,” head coach Dan Colella said. “On the board it looked like we had broken it, but Tennessee had actually gone a little bit faster at the Nike Cup.”
Kaz Takabayashi led off on the backstroke, giving breaststroker Peter Kropp more than a half-second lead. David Armstrong out-split the field on the butterfly leg, and James Peek brought home the freestyle for a combined time of 1:26.49. The Volunteers had touched the wall in 1:26.34 at the Nike Cup Invitational in November.
On the women’s side, sophomore Lindsay Schlichte and freshman Hanna House shined with season-highlight performances on both days of competition.
Schlichte won Saturday evening’s 500-yard freestyle finals in 4:54.45—Duke’s third-fastest time in the event this season. Later the same day, the Garden City, N.Y., native took second in the 200-yard freestyle, finishing in a career-best 1:51.89. Her biggest drop came in the mile Sunday. Schlichte surpassed her previous season-best from Georgia Tech of 17:38.60 by nearly 30 seconds, coming to the wall in 17:08.86.
“Lindsay was extremely excited, as were we,” Colella said. “She had some really big drops from where she had been performing all season long, and this weekend was a real boost of confidence and something that definitely helped her realize her potential.”
House led the Blue Devil women (8-2, 2-2) with two individual wins in both the backstroke events. The freshman recorded the sixth-fastest time in program history to win the 100-yard backstroke final Saturday in 55.30 seconds. Taking on the 200-yard backstroke Sunday, House touched the wall in 1:59.72—good for another first-place finish and Duke’s second-fastest performance this season.
With one spot remaining on the ACC Championship roster, both Schlichte and House hope that their performances will earn them a trip to Atlanta in two weeks.
“We are right now in the process of deciding,” Colella said. “We are going to be looking at not only how they performed individually, but how they also stack up within the ACC and what their scoring potential is at the championships.”
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There are two spots left in the men’s championship squad, and sprinters Benedict Parfit and Jack Forese laid it all on the line for the right to represent Duke later this month. Parfit won the 50-yard freestyle in a career-best 20.49 seconds. Forese finished second in the 100-yard freestyle sprint in a season-best 45.59 seconds.
Colella and his coaching staff will finalize the Blue Devils’ travel roster early this week, and Duke will head to Georgia Tech for the conference meet Feb. 18-21 for the women and Feb. 25-28 for the men.