CHAPEL HILL—With the conference championships just two weeks away, the Blue Devil freestylers set the tone for the postseason with strong performances this weekend.
Duke wrapped up the three-day Carolina College Invitational Sunday, tallying 16 top-three finishes—three of which were individual-event wins. Senior Kathryn Eckhart stole the show on the women’s side by sweeping the 50- and 100-yard freestyle sprints.
For most of the Blue Devils competing this weekend, the meet served as their season finale as the team members who had been selected for the ACC championships watched from the stands.
“A lot of it was just going off of the high of the whole team being here to cheer for us,” Eckhart said. “It was also the fact that this was my last race ever. It was euphoric, kind of magical. I knew that I wanted to end in as fast a way as I could and finish off right. It was a great way to end my time at Duke.”
Eckhart kicked off the meet Friday with the fastest time in the A-final of the women’s 50-yard freestyle, touching the wall in 23.08 seconds—just off her lifetime best of 22.97 seconds from the 2015 ACC championships.
The senior turned around and posted the fifth-fastest 100-yard freestyle time in program history in the morning preliminaries Sunday, earning the top seed for the evening finals with a time of 50.18 seconds. She bettered that mark by four one-hundredths of a second for another individual win in the evening—her final swim in a Blue Devil suit.
“For her to finish off the meet like that with two wins is huge,” Duke head coach Dan Colella said. “She has been a great leader both in and out of the pool as one of the team captains. She has been very instrumental to helping this team grow this year. It’s always great to see someone reap all the benefits of their hard work.”
Sophomore Alex Pena earned the team's third win of the meet in Saturday’s 200-yard freestyle. The Orlando, Fla., native chased down a pair of N.C. State swimmers in the final 25 yards to win by four one-hundredths of a second in 1:38.82.
The men’s squad kept up Duke’s success in the sprints with runner-up honors at both the 50- and 100-yard distances.
Junior Benedict Parfit claimed the top seed for the evening finals of Friday’s 50-yard freestyle with a personal-best performance of 20.33 seconds in the morning preliminaries. The Paget, Bermuda, native’s final time of 20.56 seconds nearly gave him the victory, but North Carolina’s James Casey touched out the Blue Devil by four one-hundredths of a second.
Junior Adriaan Venter also missed the win by a touch at the wall in the 100-yard freestyle, finishing in 44.92 seconds—just a hundredth of a second behind Tar Heel Chris Caveness. But the time was a personal best for Venter and his first time less than 45 seconds.
Junior Lindsay Schlichte had her best meet of the 2015-16 campaign, clocking career bests in the 1,650- and 200-yard freestyles and a season-best in the 500-yard freestyle. The Garden City, N.Y., native finished fourth in the mile in 16:53.35, fifth in the 500-yard event in 4:55.37 and second in the 200-yard freestyle in 1:50.65.
Duke also had success in the other stroke specialties, highlighted by freshman Susan Hynes’ performance in the 100-yard breaststroke and junior Joey Maginnis’ efforts in the 100-yard backstroke and butterfly.
Hynes swam her fastest 100-yard breaststroke as a Blue Devil Saturday with a third-place finish and a time of 1:02.54, moving up to fourth all-time for Duke—one hundredth of a second faster than teammate Ashleigh Shanley’s personal best from the Nike Cup in November.
“She was 1:02 in the 100 breaststroke as a high school junior and had a bit of an off season last year and wasn’t near her times,” Colella said. “Now she’s right back to best times, so it’s something we are really excited to build on.”
In Saturday’s 100-yard butterfly, Maginnis produced the third-fastest swim of the morning preliminaries with a time of 48.70 seconds, but scratched out of the evening finals to focus on the 100-yard backstroke the same session. The Flourtown, Pa., native finished third in 49.47 seconds, shaving four one-hundredths off of his previous season-best.
“Joey has swum tough this season, better than he has the last two years,” Colella said. “We know that when he rests, he really comes on, and that’s what he did this weekend.”
The season is finished for most of the Blue Devils who raced in Chapel Hill this weekend, but Duke will send its championship roster to Greensboro, N.C., for the four-day ACC championships starting Feb. 17 for the women and Feb. 24 for the men.