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Duke swimming wraps up regular season with slew of first-place finishes at Janis Hope Dowd Nike Cup

<p>The Blue Devils got several standout performances this weekend and now will turn their attention to the ACC championship.&nbsp;</p>

The Blue Devils got several standout performances this weekend and now will turn their attention to the ACC championship. 

One week removed from one of the most impressive wins in program history against North Carolina, the Blue Devils continued to make the case for the 2016-17 season as the team’s best ever.

Facing competition from teams across multiple conferences, the No. 23 Duke men and No. 18 women took home numerous first-place finishes at the Janis Hape Dowd Carolina College Nike Invitational Friday through Sunday. The meet was originally scheduled to mostly be held at Koury Natatorium in Chapel Hill, but the city's recent water crisis forced more events to move to Duke’s Taishoff Aquatic Pavilion.

A crucial meet for swimmers hoping to make the final spots on conference rosters, the event boasted a wide array of talent, including Olympic gold medalist and N.C. State junior Ryan Held.

“A big part of this team won’t be joining us at conference because of the fact that we have a team cap,” Blue Devil head coach Dan Colella said. “But they are always excited to see the fruits of their labor and have those kinds of performances. I think it had to be inspiring for those that are heading to Atlanta to see the kinds of drops these guys made this weekend. I’m sure it has everyone looking forward to ACCs.”

Colella stressed that several swimmers had lifetime personal bests, but two swimmers in particular stood out as the weekend’s highest achievers. On the men’s side, junior Alex Peña finished in the top three in all of his races, including a very impressive first-place finish in the 200-yard backstroke, clocking in at 1:44.38. Peña also logged the second fastest time of any Blue Devil this season in the 50-yard freestyle with a career-best 20.22.

“We have one more that we can add to the men’s roster,” Colella said. “We’re going to do that probably in the next 24 hours. We make the announcement at least three weeks out in order to give us ample time to prepare these athletes for this weekend so that they’re rested and tapered so that they can have the performances that they did.”

Junior Anna Quinn cemented her place on the conference championship team by dominating the women’s butterfly events, finishing first in the 200-yard event and second in the 100-yard race. Quinn’s 1:59.19 in the 200-yard event was also good enough to qualify for a provisional NCAA cut, otherwise known as a “B” cut. Based on Quinn's weekend performance, Colella mentioned that the Santa Rosa Valley, Calif., native has the potential to earn the Blue Devils points next week at ACCs.

Sophomore Alyssa Arwood and freshman Kira Page turned in career weekends, complementing Quinn’s excellence. Arwood, a breaststroke specialist, finished fourth in the 200 before clocking in at 1:02.55 in the 100-yard event, hundredths of a second shy from a provisional cut. Page finished fourth and second, respectively, in the 100- and 200-yard freestyle events.

Although the women travel to Georgia Tech in less than a week to compete for the conference championship, the men have to wait until Feb. 27 to begin racing. 

As a result, members of the men’s conference team competed during the weekend as a part of regular training, dominating the breaststroke events like normal. 

The 100-yard breaststroke, in particular, featured Blue Devil swimmers finishing first through fifth. Among those finishers was freshman Noah Stevens, who earned his first B-cut of the season with a career-best 54.81. Stevens, along with fellow freshmen Sheldon Boboff and Daichi Matsuda were listed by Colella as having particularly noteworthy meets.

After moving up last season at ACCs on both the men’s and women’s side, the continued upward progress seen this season is indicative of the program's further movement toward the top of the conference. The Blue Devils will look to show that improvement again in the coming weeks. 

“The women leave [Saturday],” Colella said. “Really we are just working on fine tuning, being cognizant of technique and form this week. A big part of it is just resting and taking care of yourself away from the pool, letting all of those energy reserves store up to get ready for an exciting meet in Atlanta.”

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