After a strong start to their season at the Virginia Tech quad meet last week, the Blue Devils continued their momentum against stiffer competition Saturday.
Duke split its home opener at the Taishoff Aquatics Pavilion, with the men topping Northwestern 185-110 and the 19th-ranked women falling to No. 4 N.C. State 177-123. Seniors Peter Kropp and Kaz Takabayashi led the men, winning a combined five events, and junior Isabella Paez and freshman Alyssa Marsh recorded the two lone first-place finishes for the women.
“It was a great day of swimming and diving,” Blue Devil head coach Dan Colella said. “The men and women swam incredibly tough and dove even tougher. The men had a number of really exceptional performances…. I’m really really proud of the women and how they competed against N.C. State.”
Duke kicked off the event by sweeping all four diving events. Senior Kirby Quinn recorded her second victory this year in the women’s 1-meter competition with 277.05 points. Freshman Nathaniel Hernandez captured the men’s one-meter event, before Evan Moretti and Mackenzie Wilborn finished the men’s and women’s 3-meter diving competition with scores of 381.90 and 304.35, respectively.
The men’s swimmers also started strong, finishing first, second and third in the 200-yard medley relays. Duke’s A team of Takabayashi, seniors Michael Seaberg and Michael Miller and sophomore Yusuke Legard paced the Blue Devils with a time of 1:28.38. Duke’s B team, led by Dylan Payne’s sprint in 20.36, touched in less than 30 seconds later with a 1:29.11.
The Blue Devils extended their lead with another one-two-three finish in the men’s 100-yard backstroke. Takabayashi finished the event in 48.58 seconds, with Max St. George and Christopher Murphy following in 49.39 and 51.27. Takabayashi claimed his second individual win later with a 49.35 in the 100-yard backstroke.
In the 100-yard breaststroke, Kropp routed the field with a 54:58—which was more than 1:30 faster than his teammate and second-place finisher Judd Howard. Kropp and Howard then went first and second again in the 200-yard breastroke, with Seaberg finishing third.
Miller and St. George rounded out Duke’s first-place finishers, capturing the 200-yard butterfly and 200-yard backstroke.
“Towards the middle of the meet, we understood we were in a position to win and we still continued to compete,” Kropp said. “So I was really happy about that and the coaches were really happy about that.”
Although the women could not match the men’s finish and registered just two individual victories, several strong performances kept Duke within reach of N.C. State—one of the best teams in the country.
The Blue Devils recorded 16 points by sweeping the top three spots of the 200-yard butterfly. Paez led the way with a 1:59.72, and junior Anna Quinn and freshman Jordan Kylie both hit the wall less than four seconds later.
Marsh gave Duke another nine points with a victory in the 100-yard butterfly in 53.97. The Davidson, N.C., native barely edged out Paez, who finished less than a second later.
The Blue Devils had an opportunity to capture another victory with senior Maddie Rusch in position to win the 50-yard freestyle. But N.C. State’s Ky-Lee Perry edged out the New Canaan, Conn., native by just .04 seconds.
Several other Blue Devils also picked up second and third-place finishes. In the women’s 200-yard breaststroke, senior Ashleigh Shanley secured four points when she staved off a charging Jessica Horomanksi of N.C. State. Shanley registered another second-place finish in the 100-yard breaststroke.
Sophomore Maddie Hess and junior Verity Abel also notched second places in the 100-yard backstroke and 500-yard freestyle, respectively.
“We knew it was going to be really difficult to beat [N.C. State] today,” Colella said. “But, more than anything, our women didn’t back down one iota and actually forced them to raise their intensity.”
Colella was impressed with his squad’s turns at the wall. He said that at the Virginia Tech meet last week, many of his swimmers rushed their turns and struggled to hold lines under water.
“They cleaned those up considerably…which is the difference from being good and being great,” Colella said.
The Blue Devils will return to the pool in three weeks for the three-day N.C. State Invitational beginning Nov. 17.
Get The Chronicle straight to your inbox
Signup for our weekly newsletter. Cancel at any time.