Over the course of the past two weekends, the Duke Swimming and Diving team have been competing at the NCAA Championships in Austin, Texas. The first weekend belonged to the women, who are wrapping up a historic season, while the men stole the show this weekend.
Going into the NCAA Championships, the Blue Devil women had already achieved the program’s highest national ranking at No. 12 and earned their best finish at the ACC Championships in almost 40 years. Duke sent 12 women to compete, matching last year’s team for most in program history, and four of them are divers, marking another program first. This was the 7th consecutive season, and 12th time overall, that the Blue Devil women have been represented at the NCAA Championships.
Duke’s women were 23rd in the final team standings with 47 points. This was the second highest finish in program history and highest since 2011.
The men’s side of the competition concluded Sunday, with a quartet of Blue Devils representing Duke in Austin. The Blue Devils scored 17 points to tie for 29th at the championships, their highest finish for the Duke men since 2014.
"We're so proud of what the men and women have accomplished this year," Duke head coach Dan Colella told GoDuke.com. "Right from the start, we had a really great feeling about this year. We could just sense that the team's energy and culture was such that we thought we could do some really big things this season.
After the first day, the Duke women had already made even more history. They sat 23rd in the team standings with 16 points, which was already the third-most ever scored by the women’s team. The Blue Devils featured a pair of honorable mention All-American performances and set three new program records in the process. Senior Maddie Hess, junior Alyssa Marsh, freshman Shayna Hollander, and senior Hunter Aitchison placed 12th in the country in the 200-yard freestyle relay, setting a new school record in the process and earning them honorable mention All-America honors.
Marsh followed up her performance in the relay with another All-American performance, placing 11th in the 50 freestyle. In the preliminaries of the event, she broke her own school record with a time of 21.92. She became the seventh individual All-American in Duke women’s program history.
The third school record was broken in the 400 medley relay as Hollander, sophomore Halle Morris, junior Kylie Jordan, and freshman Melissa Pish clocked in at 3:34.36, good for 24th in the country.
The Blue Devils didn’t slow down as the meet continued, garnering four more All-American honors and breaking three more school records. Marsh and Jordan both competed in the 100-yard butterfly finals and both received All-America honors, finishing 10th and 13th respectively. This was the first time in women’s program history that multiple athletes claimed All-America honors in the same event.
Hess, Morris, Marsh, and Aitchison broke the school record in the 200 medley relay with a time of 1:36.60 in the preliminaries and followed it up with a 13th place finish in the finals. Hess broke another school record, this time by herself, racing to a time of 52.05 in the 100 backstroke, good for a career-best finish in 18th.
The women Devils’ last All-America honor came in a race that saw the program record not broken once, but twice. In the 4000-yard freestyle, Pish, Hess, Aitchison, and Marsh first broke the record in the preliminaries with a time of 3:14.06 and followed it up with a time of 3:12.90, placing them 11th in the field.
"It's always great when you put this kind of work into it and get the results we did this year," Colella told GoDuke.com. "It's a continuation of what we've been working toward the last several years.
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For the men, junior diver Nathaniel Hernandez and senior diver Evan Moretti were returning to the national stage after they both gained honorable mention All-American recognition at least year’s championships. They were joined by first-time qualifiers and swimmers Max St. George and Miles Williams. This was the 10th consecutive season and 17th time overall that the Blue Devil men sent representatives to the NCAA Championships.
After the first day, both Hernandez and Moretti had garnered All-America honors for the second year in a row. Competing in the one-meter springboard, Hernandez qualified for an NCAA championship for the first time in his career and finished in 8th. In the same event, Moretti was back in an NCAA final for the third time in his career and second time on the one-meter board. After an impressive performance in the consolation final, he finished with a career-best finish in the event at 11th.
With the championships coming to an end on Saturday, so too did the careers of seniors Max St. George and Moretti, the latter of whom made it to the national championships each of his four years.
"Our goal is to build on what we started this year, in terms of finishing top-30 for the men and top-25 for the women," Colella told GoDuke.com. "Overall, we've had so many accomplishments that have been a result of a total team effort."