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Program records fall as Duke swimming and diving takes third at N.C. State GAC Invite

<p>The Blue Devils set several program records during their three-day competition.&nbsp;</p>

The Blue Devils set several program records during their three-day competition. 

In their first invitational action of the year, the Blue Devils hoped the high level of competition would lead to some of the best performances in program history.

Luckily for Duke, it rose to the occasion, placing third in the men's and women's competitions.

The No. 15 Blue Devil women took third behind No. 6 N.C. State and No. 20 North Carolina and the Duke men—who received votes in last week's poll—placed third behind the No. 1 Wolfpack and No. 21 Notre Dame Thursday through Saturday at the N.C. State GAC Invite at the Greensboro Aquatic Center.

On both the men's and women's sides, the Blue Devils got some of the best efforts in team history in their second-to-last event in 2016.

“This is about taking the next step and when you want to keep moving up in the ranks, it’s not just about having a few individuals but having depth,” Duke head coach Dan Colella told GoDuke.com. “This was a total team effort this weekend.”

The Blue Devils found success on the men’s diving board Thursday. Sophomore Evan Moretti topped the men’s 1-meter springboard diving field with a career-best score of 365.70 in the finals, and freshman Nathaniel Hernandez placed fourth with a score of 312.35, also topping the NCAA Zones qualification standard.

Senior Kirby Quinn led the Duke women in diving, taking fourth in the 1-meter competition and sixth in the 3-meter event. The Blue Devils also got their first experience this season with platform diving Saturday, taking third through fifth in the men's and women's competition.

Duke's results translated to the pool, where the women's 200-yard freestyle relay team of senior Maddie Rusch, freshman Alyssa Marsh, freshman Kira Page and junior Leah Goldman notched the fourth-fastest time in school history in 1:30.40 to finish third. The men's quartet of sophomore Yusuke Legard, senior Michael Seaberg, sophomore Sean Tate, and senior Dylan Payne also reached the program’s all-time top 10 at 1:19.61 to finish fifth in the same event.

In the distance events, junior Verity Abel kicked off a big weekend by posting an NCAA B cut with a 4:43.56 in the 500-yard freestyle. Her time was the ninth-fastest in the country so far this year and a career-best, and she bested the NCAA provisional standard in the mile Saturday with a 16:27.40 to finish third.

Junior Matt Johnson posted an NCAA B cut by finishing ninth in the mile for the men in 15:23.28.

“We’re incredibly proud of how the distance group started us off [Saturday] evening,” Colella said. “[Assistant coach] Doak [Finch has] been doing a terrific job with them and they’re responding to the training really well.”

Abel was not the only successful individual Thursday, as Goldman broke a program record with a 1:57.33 in the 200-yard individual medley to take third. Sophomore Judd Howard also finished third in the men's event with a 1:47.17, good enough for fourth all-time in Duke history. Rusch and Legard both also took third in the 50-yard freestyle, with Legard's 19.74 the third-fastest time ever for a Blue Devil.

Goldman would go on to break a second school record by taking second place in the 100-yard butterfly A final with a 52.22—one of four Duke swimmers who placed in the top seven in the event and surpassed the NCAA provisional standard.

“We had a lot of people swimming at night and a lot of people making it back to A and B finals,” Colella said. “And not only that, but one of the things they did an incredible job of was improving upon their performances from prelims to finals and in a lot of cases moving up in the standings. It’s exactly what we’re looking for.”

The last team record to fall on Day 1 came when the women's 400-yard medley relay team of sophomore Mickayla Hinkle, senior Ashleigh Shanley, Goldman and Marsh placed fourth with a 3:37.47. The men’s squad of senior Kaz Takabayashi, senior Peter Kropp, senior Michael Miller and Legard finished second at 3:11.10, posting the second-fastest time in school history.

Both of Duke’s 200-yard medley relay teams secured record-breaking second-place finishes to start Friday's action. The women’s squad of Hinkle, Shanley, Marsh, and Rusch raced a 1:38.49—the third-fastest time in the women’s program history—and the men's quartet of Takabayashi, Kropp, Joey Maginnis and Legard posted 1:26.27 for the second-fastest Blue Devil time ever.

Senior Brittany Friese made waves Friday in the 200-yard freestyle, posting a 1:47.67 in the A final for third overall to improve on the program-record 1:47.78 she posted in preliminaries. Friese was also part of the record-breaking 800-yard freestyle relay team with Abel, sophomore Hunter Aitchison and Goldman that posted the best Duke time ever of 7:12.73 to take second.

Kropp did not set a Blue Devil record, but he and fellow senior Dillon Payne swept the top two spots in the 100-yard breaststroke to highlight Day 2 for the Duke men.

After the strong start by the Blue Devil distance swimmers Saturday, Rusch and Marsh posted NCAA B cut times in the 100-yard freestyle as Rusch took seventh in 49.40 and Marsh placed 12th with a 49.68. Rusch matched the Duke record of 49.32 in preliminaries. Goldman, Marsh, Aitchison and Rusch made yet another NCAA B cut with a 3:16.69 in the 400-yard freestyle relay, the second-best Blue Devil time ever.

Howard led the Blue Devil men individually on the final day with a second-place finish in the 200-yard breaststroke before Duke finished strong in the 400-yard freestyle relays.

Following its strong weekend, Duke will return to action Dec. 3 at Queens University in Charlotte before taking about a month off.

“This weekend was an opportunity to have a dry run of what it’s like in the championship season with prelims and finals,” Colella said. “It was a great, great weekend of learning and will be a great motivator for the second half of the season.”

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