Saturday morning, Duke’s campus was silent—a ghost town, one might say, with Halloween spirit in mind. With the exception of a few costume-wearing students, the majority of the student body was asleep, but not the men's and women’s swimming and diving teams. Leaving campus early that morning, Duke traveled to UNC Wilmington for an 11 a.m. meet.
“Honestly, I was a little bit nervous going into this meet because we drove this morning. We left campus at 6 a.m.,” Duke head coach Dan Colella said after the meet.
The nerves were not warranted, in the end. The Blue Devils held off the Seahawks, as the men’s team moved to 1-1 with their 181-110 victory, and the women stayed undefeated at 2-0 with a 187-107 win.
Although the scores signify a rout, the meet was far from it. UNC Wilmington held its ground, and across both sides of the pool, the men and women needed strong performances throughout the day to return to Durham with victories.
“[It was] probably some of the best racing that I've seen from our team in years,” Colella said. “Probably half of the races we won today, we won in the last 15 to 20 yards, which was fun, really fun.”
Perhaps the story of the season so far with the women’s group has been the emergence of key freshmen. Ranked as the seventh-best recruiting class preseason by SwimSwam, freshmen Kaelyn Gridley and Martina Peroni lived up to their expectations Saturday. Gridley placed first in the women’s 100-yard breaststroke with a time of 1:01.28. Peroni won the women’s 200-yard butterfly with a time of 1:59.26.
“We know we have a lot of talent, [but] that isn't always necessarily a key to success,” Colella said. “It's also them being able to also perform at this level once they get to college, which they've been doing. They have been on fire.”
Adding to the excitement built up on the men’s side, Duke’s top 200-yard medley relay team followed up its first-place finish against Virginia Tech with another podium-topping performance against the Seahawks with a time of 1:30.40.
The relay team, consisting of junior David Chang, graduate student Cole Reznick, senior Charlie Gingrich and senior Coleman Kredich, has shown major improvement from last season through two meets.
“You see the athletes performing at a high level and part of it is just that [they are] maturing as athletes from previous years,” Colella said.
Other impressive results include season-bests from both sophomore McKenna Smith (23:29) and Kredich (20.61), who topped the women’s and men’s 50-yard freestyle sprint, respectively.
Slowly, Duke is transforming its program into an exciting one. With more and more eyes on both the men’s and women’s sides, opposing teams will give the Blue Devils their best. To keep it rolling, Duke will next host South Carolina Friday.
Friday will be a major test prior to the upcoming N.C. Invite, with the Blue Devils looking to gain national recognition as a program.
“[The team is] excited about Friday,” Colella said. “We're in a stretch of training that is very important in terms of their championship meets, so the little things are gonna make a big difference against a team like South Carolina.”
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