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Duke rowing narrowly glides past Clemson to win Lake Wheeler Invitational

Duke found itself in a back-and-forth battle with Clemson for both days of the Lake Wheeler Invitational.
Duke found itself in a back-and-forth battle with Clemson for both days of the Lake Wheeler Invitational.

In such a detail-oriented sport, every little thing counts. 

No. 10 Duke narrowly edged out Clemson 83-82 in total team points after two days of back-and-forth victories between the Blue Devils and Tigers in Raleigh, N.C. The regatta started Friday to determine which teams would advance to Saturday's A Final, and the finals all came down to Saturday's Varsity Eight, with Duke coming out on top and sealing a momentous team victory for the co-hosting Blue Devils at the eight-team Lake Wheeler Invitational. 

For all the marbles

In what turned out to be the grand finale, Duke’s Varsity Eight posted its second-fastest time of the year Saturday with a mark of 6:42.649. This impressive performance was more than enough to topple Clemson’s Varsity Eight, as the Blue Devils won with open water. 

“They did a good job of executing a solid race plan and coming out in front.... They had a nice start, they jumped out to the lead, and kept pushing throughout the race, and finished with some open water out in front," head coach Megan Cooke Carcagno said of the Varsity Eight's performance.

The Blue Devil Varsity Eight has a mix of young and experienced talent, with a number of freshmen and sophomores rowing in the crew. Behind the helm is graduate student Tara Fagan, who has been in the Varsity Eight in all of this season's races.

“[Fagan] has been a really steadfast and vital member of the Varsity Eight for the last couple years," Carcagno said. "She's got a sense of calmness and composure under stress, and I think that's really important for the leadership of that boat.... Having someone that's a little older and a little bit more experienced in there as a leader does a lot of good.”

Strength across the board

Each of Duke's crews contributed to the team victory at the Lake Wheeler Invitational, with each boat adding points to the Blue Devils' overall score. 

Duke's Third Varsity Eight and Second Varsity Four won its races comfortably, with times of 7:05.794 and 7:38.248, respectively, and beat Clemson by approximately 3-4 seconds with open water on the rest of the field of competition. Duke's Varsity Four and Second Varsity Eight also posted impressive times of 7:33.941 and 6:50.088, respectively, but each crew finished behind Clemson by just under a second.  

“They had good starts and kept pressing on their lead the whole way through the race, which is exactly what you want to do in a multi-boat event,” Carcagno said of the Third Varsity Eight and Second Varsity Four's races.

Looking ahead

Duke and Clemson’s armadas are staged to face off again in three weeks at the conference-wide ACC Championship May 14-15 in Clemson, S.C. The Blue Devils will look to build upon the winning margins they established and close the trailing margins they just barely failed to overcome this past weekend. And of course, Duke certainly cannot forget about reigning ACC-Champion Virginia either. 

“The training and preparation that we do over the next three weeks are going to lend itself towards us doing really well at the ACC Championships," Carcagno said. 

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