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Duke swimming and diving looks to stay perfect against William & Mary, Old Dominion

<p>Both the Blue Devil men and women are ranked in the top 25, a sign of the emergence of the Duke program.</p>

Both the Blue Devil men and women are ranked in the top 25, a sign of the emergence of the Duke program.

Last week the Blue Devils made program history with both teams breaking into the national rankings, coming in at No. 19 on the men’s side and No. 22 on the women’s side in the first CSCAA poll. The women have jumped up five spots in the most recent rankings.

But Duke is not done. With two dual meets left on their fall slate, the Blue Devils will look to end the semester undefeated for the first time in school history. Duke will host William & Mary and Old Dominion Saturday at 1 p.m. at Taishoff Aquatic Pavilion for a triple-dual meet.

“We started out the year talking about really believing in what we are truly capable of,” Duke head coach Dan Colella said. “These last eight or nine weeks, they have really approached it with the idea that we are a national-caliber program. As a result, here we are. We couldn’t be any more proud. It’s an incredible start to the season, and we are capable of climbing even higher into the ranks.”

After breaking six Taishoff pool records against Florida State and Queens University of Charlotte Oct. 23 and five against Pittsburgh Oct. 3, the Blue Devils (3-0) have also posted some of the top times in the nation so far this season.

Junior Peter Kropp swam a blistering 52.13-second 100-yard breaststroke in Duke’s season-opener against the Panthers, coming into the wall just five one-hundredths off the NCAA championship automatic qualifying time. His mark still stands as the fastest in Division I this season by more than a second.

Kropp teamed up with Kaz Takabayashi, David Armstrong and James Peek to post the nation’s third-fastest mark in the 200-yard medley relay to kick off the Blue Devils' rout of the Seminoles. The quartet turned in a combined time of 1:27.47, less than a tenth of a second off the top two times posted by Auburn and Tennessee.

Kropp earned ACC Swimmer of the Week honors after both meets.

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On the women’s side, freshman Mickayla Hinkle also garnered ACC Swimmer of the Week accolades with her pool-record performance of 54.55 seconds in the 100-yard backstroke.

Sophomore Leah Goldman has given impressive performances in October as she broke a 37-year-old pool record in the 200-yard individual medley with a time of 2:02.00. Goldman knocked down another Taishoff record just as old in the meet against Florida State, clocking a time of 53.77 seconds in the 100-yard butterfly and finishing nearly a second under the previous mark set by Diane Johannigman.

Not to be outdone by the men’s squad, the Blue Devil women have also broken the pool record in the 200-yard medley relay twice, with Hinkle, Ashleigh Shanley, Goldman and Maddie Rusch recording a combined time of 1:40.62—good for the 12th-fastest time in the nation.

“Every year since my freshman year, I’ve seen such a culture change and such an attitude change on the pool deck,” team captain Kiera Molloy said. “With every recruiting class, we get more confident and proud about what we are doing. This year, being ranked [in the top 20] is just a sentiment to how much each class has contributed to the kind of change we try to make.”

But even though Duke enters Saturday’s contest as the favorite to win on both sides, the Blue Devils know not to underestimate their opponents if they want to extend their winning streak to five.

The Tribe men (4-0) are also undefeated this season after dispatching Delaware and UNC Wilmington last Saturday. Senior Jeremiah O’Donnell will look to lead William & Mary’s effort to upset Duke by winning the first 400-yard individual medley contested in Taishoff this season.

The Blue Devils defeated the Tribe last year 143-119 on the men’s side and 156-106 on the women’s side, but the scores were closer than Colella would have liked.

“We told the group, regardless of who we swim this year, we want to get on the blocks and swim like it’s the last swim of the season,” Colella said. “I think if they take that approach with the idea of really pushing the envelope and being hungry, I think we should come out looking good at the end of the competition.”

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