Last month, Duke beat North Carolina in a thrilling Senior Day meet at Taishoff Aquatics Pavillion. This weekend at the ACC championships, the Blue Devils met the Tar Heels again, as well as all the other top swimmers in the ACC.
Duke finished seventh in the team standings in the four-day meet at the Greensboro Aquatic Center, finishing in front of North Carolina and breaking eight school records in the process. With six top-15 finishes, the Blue Devils improved one spot from last season. Junior Max St. George, senior Matt Johnson and sophomore Miles Williams broke school records in multiple events, and the diving team accounted for more than a third of Duke’s 621 points.
N.C. State won its fourth consecutive ACC championship, with Louisville and Virginia a distant second and third.
“We saw a continuation of the outstanding performances we’ve had all weekend,” head coach Dan Colella said. “Our milers did an outstanding job. In particular, Matt Johnson breaking two school records in the 1,000 and 1,650 free was a great way to get the evening session started.”
Senior miler Johnson finished his career in 10th place in the 1,650-yard freestyle. His time of 15:03.80 set a school record, beating his previous best by 26 seconds. His 1,000-yard split of 9:07.14 also beat the Duke record of 9:08.00. Johnson will have another chance to break his own records at NCAAs in late March, as he finished well under the ‘B’ cut in the 1,650-yard freestyle.
Records continued to fall in the short-distance events. Max St. George turned in a great performance in the 200-yard backstroke, beating his own record at 1:43.73, good for 15th overall. His success translated to the relays, as he joined junior Yusuke Legard, sophomore Miles Williams, and junior Sean Tate to finish sixth in the 400-yard freestyle relay in 2:53.99—breaking a school record set in 2011.
“That 400 free relay record has been up on the board for eight years, so it was one the guys really wanted to take down,” Colella said. “It was just a great team effort to go 2:53.9 tonight and a terrific way to finish up our weekend of competition.”
Teammates Legard and Williams battled in the 100-yard freestyle, both tying for 13th at 43.33 and co-setting the school record in an early heat. Later, in the consolation final, Williams would grab the record all for himself, replacing the 43.33 mark with a 43.15 and finishing in 10th overall.
“Miles has really done some great, great stuff all season long,” Colella said of the sophomore. “He’s had a different approach, a different attitude in regard to his training this year, and there’s no question he’s seeing the results. He’s definitely seen what he’s capable of.”
Junior Judd Howard added yet another top-10 finish. Howard finished eighth in the 200-yard breaststroke championship final at 1:55.19, shaving off two seconds from his previous best and coming five-tenths of a second short of yet another Duke record.
“We’re just incredibly excited for Judd,” Colella said. “A lot of hard work went into his performances this weekend. For him to come back and make two ‘A’ finals and a ‘B’ final is a huge step. He’s already talking about next year. Seeing those kinds of results only motivates him and the rest of the guys on the team to enjoy the weekend and successes but also get ready to work even harder next year.”
On the diving board, Duke continued to excel as it has all year. The divers accounted for 212 points, with the highlight being sophomore Nathaniel Hernandez’s sixth-place finish in the platform diving finals, with a score of 310.60.
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Next up for Duke is the NCAA championship, which takes place in Minneapolis from March 21-24.