After a tough and emotional season, Duke swimming can hold its head high after a stellar performance on the conference stage.
Last weekend, Duke took the hour-long trek to the Greensboro Aquatic Center to get the championship season kicked off at the ACC championships. After four intense days of competition, the Blue Devil women finished fifth and the men 10th, earning 718.5 and 321 points, respectively.
Even without 2022 ACC top scorer Margo O’Merea not competing, the Duke women still exceeded their point total from last year's championships. Led by top scorers Sarah Foley, Catherine Purnell, Kaelyn Gridley, Catherine Belyakov and Martina Peroni, the Blue Devils put together a performance that stunned the conference and should put the rest of the country on watch as next month's national championships approach.
Foley had a strong weekend both individually and on relays. She made three individual A finals, with her highest finish in the 200-yard individual medley (1:54.12 seconds) good for second place. She also snagged a new school record in the 400-yard IM (4:06.25), taking fourth in the A final.
“I didn't really know what to expect going into me," Foley said. "I was just trying to really enjoy the moment with my team. I knew half the battle was just getting there. And a lot of it will click once I was there, just taking time to enjoy racing with my teammates, rather than focusing on individual times and points because I knew that would come with all the training I've done this year.”
Duke's freshman class also had a stellar performance for the first time on the conference stage. Peroni and Gridley accounted for four finals appearances, combining for 93 points. They were joined in the finals by fellow freshman Tatum Wall and Audrey Portello.
For the women, the pinnacle of an incredible week of racing was their perfectly executed 400-yard medley relay, a race in which Duke grabbed the bronze medal, its highest finishing relay and a new school record. Emma Shuppert, Gridley, Aleyna Ozkan, and Foley combined for a final time of 3:31.35. They return three of the four legs for next year with only Shuppert departing, enabling the Blue Devil team to climb even higher next year.
While the men did not reach the same heights, they managed to hold their own among the ACC's best: graduate student Cole Reznick, junior David Chang and seniors Brad Sanford and Coleman Kredich led the way for a strong performance in the 400-yard medley relay.
Reznick capped off an amazing five-year career, reaching the finals in all three of his individual events. He finished as high as ninth (52.91) in the 100-yard breast, his highest-ever ACC finish. He was also integral on the 400-yard medley relay, dropping a monster split on the breaststroke leg (52.29), and combined with Chang, Sanford and Kredich. The 400-yard medley relay team will look to reload after falling 0.04 seconds short of the school record.
Sanford also continued the trend of Blue Devils ending their career with a bang. He flew to the wall to take down Ben Tuben’s 11-year 100-yard fly record in 46.16 seconds, taking 12th in the process. Sanford also showed up in all of Duke’s sprint relays, putting up consistent and needed splits for the Blue Devil men.
“I think it was a fantastic performance by both the women and the men. They did what they've done all year, they brought energy, they brought enthusiasm," interim head coach Doak Finch added. "They were focused, they did their job warming up, warming down, they manage their physical energy, their emotional energy, their mental energy all the way through. I think it was a great meet for for absolutely everyone."
Although the emotions ran high over the weekend, it is not the end of the road for the Blue Devils this season. At least seven women — racing individually and in relays — will be going to the NCAA championships March 15-18 in Knoxville, Tenn.
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