Senior Leah Goldman has had quite the ending to her Duke career. After sealing the Duke women’s second-ever win against North Carolina last month, she didn't slowed down.
And in her last race, she took home her first All-American honor, finishing in the top 16 in the 100-yard Butterfly.
Goldman joined three other Blue Devil men and women who were All-America honorable mentions at the NCAA championships. Overall, the Duke women finished tied for 42nd with three points at Ohio State’s McCorkle Aquatic Pavilion, while the Duke men finished tied for 33rd with nine points at the Minnesota’s Jean K. Freeman Aquatic Center.
“For Leah, one of her individual goals was to be an All-American,” head coach Dan Colella said. “For her to be able to do that in her last individual swim as a member of the Duke program was quite an accomplishment and something that she has dreamt of doing for the last four years.”
Goldman ended her career on a high note, but she wasn’t the only Blue Devil to do so. Senior diver MaryEllen Targonski earned All-America honors for the second time in her career. Targonski started preliminaries strong, coming in 12th with a score of 254.50. Her success continued into the consolation final, in which she finished eighth with 213.95 points.
“It was really exciting that MaryEllen was able to come to this NCAA meet and be a second-time All-American,” head diving coach Nunzio Esposto said. “She was really focused in prelims, and that’s what sets it up for finals. She had a great prelim, was very consistent and I was glad she could finish her senior year with that 16th-place finish and All-America honors.”
The third Duke senior to excel was captain Verity Abel, who capped her career as the Blue Devils' top distance swimmer. She competed in the 1,650-yard freestyle and registered a 16:12.53 to finish 25th overall, 13 spots better than her performance last year.
Aside from the All-America honors and senior performances, a Duke relay record fell, and that relay finished one spot short of honorable mention. Junior Maddie Hess, sophomore Alyssa Marsh, junior Hunter Aitchison and Goldman broke a three-year old record with a time of 3:15.44 in the 400-yard free. The top 16 times earn All-America honorable mention, and the relay finished 17th.
The Duke women’s team performance was its best since 2011.
"The thing that we’re most proud of is that we continue to advance as a program,” Colella said. “We got on the scoreboard again this year, and to finish a little bit higher than last year is always a good thing. To come to the meet with the largest group that we’ve ever had here at NCAAs was fantastic. We’ll continue to build on this as we go forward.”
The Duke men, on the other hand, did not send any swimmers to the NCAA championships. But the two divers they sent left as All-American honorable mentions.
The Blue Devils’ nine points came from sophomore Nathaniel Hernandez and junior Evan Moretti. Hernandez placed 12th overall in the one-meter platform.
“It was very exciting that Nathaniel qualified to compete in two events here at NCAAs,” Esposto said. “He had a solid one-meter list. At this point in the season, here at nationals, everyone is really top-notch. He competed well one-meter and had a great preliminary. And he ended up in 12th with a great list.”
Moretti finished 13th for the Blue Devils on the one-meter board Thursday. It was his second honorable mention, his first since competing on the three-meter board as a freshman in 2016.
“Evan missed All-America last year, so it was really, really gratifying to do a solid one-meter list and repeat as an honorable mention All-American this year as a junior,” Esposto said. “It was really exciting to see his hard work pay off."
With four honorable mention All-Americans, Duke leaves the NCAA championships on the rise. The Blue Devil women will lose three senior leaders in Goldman, Targonski and Abel, but the team is still positioned well for the future. For the men, Hernandez is a sophomore and Moretti is a junior, and they will be looking to return to NCAAs next year.
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