After a strong showing at the Big Al Invitational, the swimmers and divers will head to another competitive matchup this weekend in one of the season’s final meets.
Duke swimming and diving will compete in the Tennessee Invitational this weekend, held in Knoxville, Tenn., at the Jones Aquatic Center. The invitational starts on Thursday and will last for three days. The Blue Devils will be competing against five other programs: Carson-Newman, Penn State, Pennsylvania, Denver and Tennessee.
“The Tennessee programs are highly touted, highly nationally ranked programs,” said head coach Dan Colella. “The other programs that are there, all of them have some really high-end athletes. It’s not a big group, only six teams will be there, but there will be plenty of competition.”
The Tennessee Invitational is the first three-day meet of the season. This meet will be similar to the upcoming ACC championships, as both are longer competitions and swimmers will be expected to compete at high levels in up to 15 events. This meet will also have preliminary and final rounds, whereas the team has swam at meets with only timed finals thus far. Recovery at the end of these long days could be a deciding factor for overall performance in the competition.
“We have a lot of equipment that we bring with us,” said senior swimmer Maddie Hess. “One is called NormaTec and we have our trainer Aleah, she’s awesome. NormaTec is this compression with air and it really helps flush out some of the lactic acid that you build up during your races so just doing simple recovery and meditation and just having fun and relaxing, talking to people, that’s always good.”
Besides post-competition recovery, preparing beforehand for a big meet is an important part of the process as well. The Blue Devils have had a lot of preparation leading up to this weekend, both in and out of the pool.
“We work all season long so preparing is just every single day of practice and working hard,” explained Hess. “For this, we’ll be tapering which means we cut back on our yardage a little bit so we have more rest and we get to sleep in more so that will help up swim faster. We usually eat less carbs and more protein and then extra sleep is a big part of it.”
After the women took first, and the men finished second in their last invite—the Big Al Invite held at Princeton—these performances have opened new goals for some. Hess, who finished first in her 200 backstroke at the Big Al Invite, is going out this weekend with her own set of goals.
“Some of my personal goals, to have fun,” said Hess. “This is one of my last shave and taper championship meets so just to be with the team. This is actually the last meet with the boys since ACC is separate so I’m really looking forward to having everyone together. I’m really looking forward to backstroke. I did really well at Princeton so I’m just excited to see how my hard work has been paying off.”
The Blue Devil women have recently jumped from No. 20 to No. 16 in the latest CSCAA national poll, the highest they’ve been ranked since 2015 when they were ranked 17th. This weekend will be their first competition since the latest polls and it will be exciting to watch as eyes will be drawn to how they continue to perform.
“They’re very excited,” Colella said about the Duke women. “It’s nice to have the rest of the nation be able to see the results that they’ve been putting up over the first half of the season and that just equates back to the work that they’ve been doing in the pool.”
With this being one of the last big championship meets for the team, before heading into the ACC championships late February, it’s important for a lot of the players, especially the newer ones, not to get in their own heads. Colella will be going out there with some key advice.
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“Stick to the process and sticking to their game plan its really being able to stay composed in that kind of environment and going out and executing what they’ve been working on every day in practice,” Colella said.
After this weekend, Duke swimming and diving will have a break from competition until mid-January, when they’ll compete in dual-meet format at home.