Duke has a chance to have one of its best seasons in program history in 2022—if the cards line up correctly. The Blue Devils had a great season in 2021-22, featuring a 24th-place NCAA finish for the women. But this year, they were ranked 20th in SwimSwam’s preseason power rankings with the seventh-best recruiting class. On the men’s side, they are not lacking either, with multiple school record-holders returning and a strong first-year class to boot.
At an individual level, Sarah Foley’s sixth-place finish at the NCAA Championship served as the high water mark last year, and with five school records broken on her own, she will look to lead the Blue Devils by dropping her times even lower. Sophomore diver Margo O’Meara, who earned two ACC championships as a first-year, also returns; but with no top-three diving finishes at the NCAA, she will surely be driven to go further come spring.
Indeed, most of Duke’s strongest scorers are returning this season, including sophomore freestyle sensation Yixuan Chang and double IM-school record holder Cole Reznick, a fifth-year. This makes the Blue Devils’ incoming first-year class—one of the best in program history—all the more significant. Already this season, first-year Kaelyn Gridley has posted breaststroke times faster than Olympic medalists; other freshmen like Martina Peroni and Tatum Wall will ensure not just individual strength, but potential relay dominance. All things considered, the Blue Devils could be on track to achieve something great this season, continuing an arc of consistent improvement from recent years. -Babu Chatterjee
New swimmer/diver to watch: Kaelyn Gridley
The women’s team has tremendous depth this year, with experienced veterans and many talented freshmen, the result of a seventh-ranked recruiting class.
“We're really excited about our prospects this year and this incoming freshman class. They were highly ranked as a recruiting class, and they are definitely showing us that they're prepared to deliver,” said head coach Dan Colella.
Gridley, the No. 15 recruit in the country, is one of these exciting prospects. She was recently named to the US Junior National Team, one of only 72 athletes to be selected. During the recent Blue vs. White scrimmage, Gridley recorded a split of 26.61 in the 200-yard medley relay. That was the fastest 50-yard breaststroke split in the country so far this year, and she also finished first in the individual 50-yard breaststroke at the scrimmage.
“That split on the 200 medley relay, that was the fastest 50 split in the country," said Colella. “She's definitely going to be someone who's going to contribute big to the coming season's goals.” -Ranjan Jindal
Returning swimmer/diver to watch: Sarah Foley, Seamus Harding Jr.
Foley was named one of five swimmers to watch this season by SwimSwam. This comes after an incredible season for Foley in which she broke five individual Duke school records. At the NCAA Championship, Foley placed sixth in the 200-yard individual medley, shattering the Duke record time with 1:54.38.
“I've been coaching for 37 years and I haven't seen any woman do some of the things that she's been doing, which is just incredibly exciting,” said Colella.
On the men’s side, Seamus Harding Jr. is coming off of a stellar season for the Blue Devils. The platform diver was named Duke's Most Valuable Athlete a season ago. Although Harding narrowly missed qualification for the NCAA Championship, he placed second overall at the ACC Championship and earned All-ACC honors.
“Seamus has been learning some new dives, and is definitely going to be someone who's going to contribute to the way we perform this coming weekend and weeks to come,” said Colella. -Jindal
Most anticipated matchup: N.C. State, Jan. 14
N.C. State enters the 2022-23 season with all of the momentum in the world following a fourth-place men’s finish and a fifth-place women’s finish at the NCAA Championship in March. This year, the Wolfpack retain 19 All-Americans across both the men and women, positioning them both at No. 4 in the country. With the meet to take place on Senior Day, expect this matchup to bring fireworks as Duke looks to upset a team that looks to be the best program in the ACC. -Garrett Spooner
The Blue Devils could be looking to have one of their best seasons in history. A strong season in their rearview mirror and an exceptionally strong recruiting class—especially on the women’s side—could lead them to heights unseen in program history. -Chatterjee
Duke has some of its most difficult meets early on in the season, against some of the nation’s top teams like N.C. State (both before and after winter break), Virginia Tech and North Carolina. If these meets don’t go according to plan, morale could be lowered, affecting the entire season.
Duke maintains definite NCAA scoring potential, especially on the women’s side, but it is possible that some of its highest potential scorers add time—which has happened in the past. This could lower the Blue Devils’ placement dramatically. -Chatterjee
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Babu Chatterjee is a Trinity junior and sports staff reporter for The Chronicle's 117th volume.
Ranjan Jindal is a Trinity sophomore and an assistant Blue Zone editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.