CHAPEL HILL—For its final dual meet of the 2022-2023 season, Duke headed 20 minutes south to Koury Natatorium to face off against North Carolina. Although Duke came away empty-handed from Chapel Hill, losing on the women’s side 156-144 and in men’s 180-119, the Blue Devils did not leave without setting off some fireworks for spectators to enjoy.
The Duke men got off to a fiery start, stealing the 200-yard medley relay from the Tar Heels in 1:26.26, a sensational time for a dual meet. Junior David Chang, graduate student Cole Reznick along with seniors Brad Sanford and Charlie Gingrich beat out their time from the N.C. State Invite in November, a competition they were fully rested for. Of note, Reznick threw down a standout split on the breaststroke leg (23.93). Along with his teammates, they are looking good for next month’s ACC Championship.
“We'll just continue to sharpen over the next two and a half weeks, as you said,” Gingrich said. “It looks like we're on the right path. So come three weeks from now, we should be ready to go.”
Along with the medley relay, Duke’s backstroke crew, led by Chang and graduate student David Hallaron, was a highlight for the Blue Devils. Although neither walked away with a victory on the day, they both put in sensational times, with Chang posting a personal best in the 100-yard backstroke (48.00) and Hallaron grabbing a second-place finish in the 200-yard backstroke (1:46.19). Along with sophomore Jack Christian, this crew is beginning to fill a weakness that the Duke men have had in the past, and it bodes well for them as championship season approaches.
For the women, it was a closely contested meet that went down to the wire. However, despite the loss, the Duke women brought the heat, highlighted by two school records: Kaelyn Gridley's 100-yard breaststroke (59.12) and Martina Peroni's 200-yard butterfly (1:53.76), both NCAA B-Cuts.
It cannot be overstated how valuable the addition of Gridley and Peroni, along with the other members of the class of 2026, has been for the Duke women. In their first time participating in the heated rivalry, they left nothing in the water.
“I think being here with the whole team and the energy rivaling any meet like this, and just with the season we've had, we just wanted to put up one hell of a fight,” said Peroni.
Following suit, many other Duke upperclassmen had a spectacular day in Chapel Hill. Sophomore Yixuan Chang topped the podium twice, first in the 1,000-yard freestyle (9:54.96) and then in the 500-yard freestyle (4:48.34). Although Peroni was among the charge, the 200-yard IM was spearheaded by juniors Sarah Foley (1:56.19) and Catherine Belyakov (1:56.90).
The women’s No. 20 ranking should not be expected to go down after a closely contested event against the 18th-ranked Tar Heels. If the Duke women keep on competing like they have all season, there is a possibility that the Blue Devils could improve upon their 24th-place finish at NCAA last season.
For Duke, the next few weeks are solely focused on tightening up the details and getting primed to race at their respective end-of-season meets: the Hokie Invitational (Feb. 3-5), ACC Championships (Feb. 14-18), and NCAA championships (women Mar. 14-18, men Mar. 21-25).
“We've had some really promising swims this whole year,” veteran senior Matthew Knox said. “We're about ready to really put it together. Three more weeks of rest. We're gonna be ready to go.”
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