After a week of long-course training abroad and six weeks off from competitive swimming, the Blue Devils impressed with several victories in the regular-season home finale.
Duke hosted its final home meet of the regular season, inviting swimmers from William & Mary and Queens University of Charlotte and divers from UNC-Wilmington to compete at the Taishoff Aquatic Pavilion Saturday. Diving events kicked off the afternoon, and a brief Senior Day celebration followed. After recognizing 13 seniors and their families, the competition continued with the swimming events.
“Across the board, I think people raced incredibly well,” head coach Dan Colella said. “I was really happy seeing a lot of people implementing some really small technical things that we’ve been talking about the last month and the exciting part is that when they did it, they got results.”
The women’s team had a notable win by senior Maddie Hess, in the 50-yard freestyle in 23.16 seconds. For the men’s team, senior Yusuke Legard out-swam his opponents in the 100 freestyle in 44.55 seconds. Sean Tate took first in the 100-yard breaststroke in 56.12 seconds while classmate Judd Howard claimed the 200-yard breaststroke with a time of 2:03.89. Finally, Max St. George brought in victories in both of his backstroke events.
“It’s good to get back into it. When you don’t compete for a while, you start to lose focus a little bit, so it’s nice to just regain that focus,” St. George said. “Going into this meet, I just wanted to win just so we could get this win against Queens and accomplish that.”
The teams also took first place in three of four relay events, with the help of the senior swimmers.
“This group came in four years ago and where we are today and where we were four years ago is kind of night and day. We just continued to improve and the level of training, the level of competition just keeps going to a new level,” Colella said. “It’s a group that truly has been impactful. They’re going to be missed greatly but I know they’re excited to get us across the finish line in some really great form here at the end.”
Younger members of the team also found success. Freshman Easop Lee shined in her events, winning the women’s 200-yard freestyle, 200-yard backstroke and 200-yard individual medley. Underclassmen showed themselves in diving events and relay events as well.
The women’s 200-yard medley relay was won by freshman Shayna Hollander, junior Alyssa Marsh, junior Suzanne Dolan and Hess with a time of 1:41.20. Efforts from junior Miles Williams, St. George, Tate and Legard contributed to the men’s 200-yard medley relay win in 1:28.15. In the 400-yard freestyle relay, the women’s team of freshman Melissa Pish, junior Kylie Jordan, Hollander and sophomore Carly Perri took first in 3:25.09.
Although there were a lot of wins in swimming, the divers were the ones who started the afternoon off strong. Junior Nathaniel Hernandez took the win in the one-meter springboard with a score of 396.23 while freshman Maddi Pullinger locked it down for the women with 300.15. Victories in the three-meter events were by seniors Mackenzie Willborn with 340.65 points and Evan Moretti with 414.23. Perfectly timed, Moretti pulled out a career-best in his last dive of a home meet at Duke.
“It was really nice to see everyone dive well today. They had a lot of fun because we had four diving seniors,” head diving coach Nunzio Esposto said. “The energy was good and having the adrenaline in the meet really helped them complete their dives and do well.”
Wrapping up the first competition after long-course training in Aruba for the swimming team and in Puerto Rico for the diving team, Colella was satisfied with the day’s results.
“This group has just continued to reinforce what their attitudes, the culture, the work has been,” Colella said. “In terms of results, today was probably one of their better meets we’ve had after a training trip. Just a lot of great performances.”
Duke will head over to the Bowman Gray Memorial Pool in Chapel Hill Saturday, Feb. 2 to compete against its Tobacco Road rivals.
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