In an event billed as the “Battle of the Blues,” the most exciting color for Duke on Saturday came in the form of an orange Gatorade shower for head coach Dan Colella after the Blue Devils picked up another Tobacco Road rivalry win for the third year in a row.
Duke’s men’s and women’s teams each defeated North Carolina in their final regular season meet of the year, using a strong finish in the 200 IMs and 400 free relays to nail down their wins at the Koury Natatorium in Chapel Hill. The women’s team opened up a commanding lead with several events left en route to a 165.5-134.5 victory, while the men’s competition went down the wire before the Blue Devils were able to pull out the win, 155-145. The women finished 2-1 in ACC competition this year, while the men picked up their first and only conference win of the season.
Duke’s “A” women’s medley relay team got the Blue Devils off to a hot start in the first event of the day as Hunter Aitchison pulled through down the stretch to help seal a victory in the 200 medley relay by just three tenths of a second. In the men’s 200 IM relay, the race was in a dead heat heading into the free portion before the Tar Heels just barely edged out Duke’s Yusuke Legard in the last leg.
However, Blue Devil Spencer LaFata answered back by touching the wall less than a tenth of a second ahead of the Tar Heels’ Thomas Bretzmann in the next race, the 1000 free. LaFata’s time of 9:16.84 was the fourth-fastest in program history. In the same event on the women’s side, North Carolina’s women delivered a commanding sweep, but Duke won the five of the next six races to build a lead they would not surrender.
The Blue Devils were dominant in the men’s and women’s 200 free events, with freshmen Melissa Pish and Easop Lee finishing first and second, respectively, in the women’s 200 free just before Miles Williams and Sheldon Boboff followed them up with a one-two finish as well in the men’s race. The Blue Devils were nearly perfect in the fly events, as Cabell Whitlow, Kylie Jordan and Matthew Whelan also delivered wins in the women’s 200 and 100 and men’s 200. However, North Carolina took control in the men’s and women’s breast events, as Sean Tate’s third place in the men’s 100 was the best finish for the Blue Devils across all four races.
In the diving well, Evan Moretti and Nathaniel Hernandez were excellent, finishing one-two in both the one-meter and three-meter competitions in Moretti’s final ACC regular season meet. On the women’s side, Lizzie Fitzpatrick also put on an impressive showing against Duke’s Tobacco Road rival, finishing third in the one-meter event and second in three-meter, where she set a personal record with a score of 308.33. Freshman Madison Pullinger delivered a win for Duke in the one-meter event with a score of 323.33.
In the latter half of the meet, LaFata and Lee continued to impress with victories in the men’s and women’s 500 free. After a break to wrap up the three-meter diving competition, the women sealed their their win by taking four of the top five spots in the 200 IM and cruising to a six-second victory in the final event, the 400 free relay. The men’s team also took care of business in the final two races, placing four in the top five as well in the 200 IM before finishing first with a three-second edge in the 400 free relay.
With their regular season now in the books, the Blue Devils will turn their attention to the Janis Hape Dowd Nike Invitational for swimmers next weekend again in Chapel Hill ahead of ACC Championships heading into the last weekend of February.