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Duke rowing takes home Carolina Cup title after dominating North Carolina and Clemson in spring opener

<p>The Blue Devils are in the top 15 nationally to start the spring.&nbsp;</p>

The Blue Devils are in the top 15 nationally to start the spring. 

After more than four months of winter training, the Blue Devils finally got back on the water for competition at Saturday's Carolina Cup scrimmage.

And against two programs it has surged by in recent years, Duke opened the spring with a dominant performance.

The No. 14 Blue Devils took first place in all five of Saturday's races with three varsity-eight boats and two varsity-four boats on Lake Hartwell in Clemson, S.C. Duke finished the day with 99 points, 12 ahead of Clemson and 21 ahead of North Carolina, and won each of its races by comfortable margins.

“I'm really proud of our entire team today, from our staff, to our walk-ons, to our seniors, everyone worked hard to make today a success,” Duke head coach Megan Cooke Carcagno told

In their first action since the Rivanna Romp Nov. 13, the Blue Devils left nothing to chance in pulling away from the competition.

The closest finish of the day came in the 2V4 race, with Duke finishing ahead of Clemson by 5.9 seconds with a time of 7:37.4. 

The V4 and V8 races were not as close, though, with teams led by seniors Elizabeth Horne and Tani O’Neill finishing at least 10 seconds ahead of the competition. 

“We've had a very challenging week. Countless hard strokes were taken, but everyone raced as if given a new pair of legs," Cooke Carcagno said. "That is what you want to see on race day."

The Blue Devils showed off their depth at the event, with the 2V8 and 3V8 also cruising past Clemson and North Carolina to prevail by at least nine seconds in each event.

Although the Tigers and Tar Heels are not ranked, the event should give Duke confidence moving forward. The Blue Devils will also return to Clemson for the Clemson Invite April 22-23 and ACC championship May 14, with both events featuring tougher competition and the conference event holding NCAA championship implications.

Coming off such a long break, Cooke Carcagno credited her entire coaching staff with preparing all of the teams for the weekend. Duke will look to build on its start Saturday at the Longhorn Invite in Austin, Texas.

“I'm very thankful to be able to work with a great staff. They made everything come together, flawlessly,” Cooke Carcagno said. “We're excited to hit the road and take another step into finding out who we are.”