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Duke swimming and diving wraps up 2016-17 season at NCAA championships

<p>The Blue Devils broke 19 program records in 2016-17.&nbsp;</p>

The Blue Devils broke 19 program records in 2016-17. 

Two All-American performances were added to the list of accolades earned by the Blue Devils this season at the men’s and women’s NCAA championships.

Among those accolades included several performances rewriting the program's record book—19 records were broken during head coach Dan Colella's 12th-year leading Duke's program. 

Eight Blue Devil swimmers and four divers competed at IU Natatorium in Indianapolis the last two weekends, with the women competing March 15-18 and the men competing Wednesday through Saturday. The No. 18 Duke women finished tied for 47th and the men finished 32nd, up seven spots from their 2016 effort. 

Senior Peter Kropp added an All-American swim in the 100-yard breaststroke to a host of honors to cap off his best season as a Blue Devil, and first-time NCAA competitor MaryEllen Targonski earned the women’s team’s lone point with a 16th-place finish in platform diving—an honorable mention All-American effort.

Duke has dominated the 100-yard breaststroke throughout the season, thanks largely to Kropp and fellow senior Dylan Payne, who, in his NCAA debut, finished 28th in the same event. Fresh off a silver medal and program-best 51.46-second swim at the ACC championship, Kropp clocked in at 52.06 during prelims, fast enough to secure the eighth and final spot in the “A” final. The Los Angeles native moved up to seventh later in the evening, picking up the Blue Devils’ 12 points with a 51.90.

“It was a great, great day for the Blue Devils,” Colella told after the race. “Peter Kropp, his goal has been to make that ‘A’ final and to get in there in eighth place this morning and then come back tonight and move up another spot is fantastic. It was great to see him, in his last 100 breaststroke, finish on the podium. The last couple years, we’ve fallen short of making it back at night so to make it back in the ‘A’ final tonight was really exciting.”

Kropp was seeded 29th in the 200-yard breaststroke, but a disqualification during the race prevented the senior a chance to move up in the rankings.

Sophomore diver Evan Moretti earned two top-25 finishes in his second consecutive NCAA championship, placing 20th in the 3-meter event and 24th in the 1-meter event. The top 16 divers return for finals. Making his NCAA debut after a stellar conference meet, freshman Nathaniel Hernandez finished in 36th in the platform event, wrapping up a successful season for a young diving group that will see expectations continue to rise in the coming years.

On the women’s side, junior Leah Goldman and freshman Alyssa Marsh raced in three individual events for the Blue Devils. Goldman finished 18th in the 100-yard butterfly with a 52.14-second effort, just shy of her program record 51.62 set at the conference championship. Marsh was close behind in 30th by finishing in 52.52 seconds, slightly slower than the 52.43 she posted at ACCs. 

Both Marsh and Goldman were a part of the 200- and 400-yard medley relays that collected top-20 finishes. Senior Maddie Rusch finished her Duke career by setting a new record in the 100-yard freestyle as a part of that relay, leading off with a 49.18.

Targonski became just the third female diver in Blue Devil history to earn All-American accolades, joining a group that includes Olympic diver Abby Johnston with her performance in the platform event. Sophomore Mackenzie Willborn finished 30th and 23rd in the platform and 3-meter events, respectively.  

Despite little movement in the conference and NCAA championship standings, the team's 19 different program records were a testament to Duke's continued progress. The graduation of a host of talented seniors—including Kropp, Payne and Rusch—will be a massive blow to the Blue Devils next season, but a core group of young swimmers and divers should give the team a great amount of optimism heading into the 2017-18 campaign.

“We’re always looking to progress and move forward as a program,” Colella said.


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