The Blue Devils concluded the regular season at the Virginia Tech Invitational by providing a glimpse into the future of the program.
It was an opportunity for new swimmers to compete prior to the ACC championships next week, as many of the veterans and top performers were sitting out. Virginia Tech and South Carolina were the two other schools that competed at the Invitational.
“It was a good meet and good energy with the swimmers that we had there,” said interim head coach Doak Finch. “It was good competition and it had a lot of season bests. We accomplished what we needed to accomplish.”
For the No. 19 women’s team, there were a slew of strong results with many swimmers earning finals times in multiple events. Duke’s top performance of the weekend was senior Olivia Tighe, who finished second in the 200-yard freestyle (1:48.72). Tighe also performed well in the 100-yard freestyle, earning fifth place (49.99).
The women’s 50-yard freestyle was a strong suit for the Blue Devils, as three swimmers finished in the top-10 of the event. Sophomore KyAnh Truong finished seventh (23.29), freshman Madeline Meredith ninth (23.53) and senior Alex Bumpas tenth (23.70). Truong continued her success into the weekend, recording a third place finish in the 100-yard butterfly (55.12) and was sixth in the 100-yard freestyle (50.90).
Moreover, many of the freshmen on the women’s team had outstanding performances. Isabel Abrajan recorded her season best in the 200-yard individual medley (2:06.46) while also shaving four seconds off of her preliminaries time in the 200-yard butterfly to nearly miss the podium. The Mission Viejo, Calif., native, finished near Truong in the 100-yard butterfly, receiving fifth (55.44).
Kiki Kennedy and Meredith were other freshman standouts. Kennedy, a backstroke specialist, placed fourth in the 100-yard event (54:84) and tenth in the 200-yard (2:02.28). Meredith remarkably finished in the top-10 in events for three separate strokes. In addition to her success in the 50-yard freestyle, the Louisville, Ky., native finished sixth in the 100-yard butterfly (55.48) and ninth in the 200-yard backstroke (2:03.71).
“We're excited to continue to grow this freshman class,” said Finch. “I'm helping them continue to make adjustments, helping them be successful in their first year and continue that success throughout.”
Not as many men competed for Duke, but the ones that did made their mark. Freshman Austin Simpson had a great weekend, earning a spot on the podium in the grueling 1650-yard freestyle, with a time of 15:18.51. Earlier in the weekend, he continued his outstanding performances in freestyle events, finishing sixth in the 500-yard and 200-yard races.
In addition, freshmen Sean Rogers and Justin Woo qualified for finals of the 50-yard freestyle, earning ninth and twelfth place, respectively. Similarly to Abrajan, senior Kevin Repice improved his prelim 200-yard IM time by four seconds, earning his way to seventh place (1:54.62).
Tighe, Bumpas and Repice all concluded their careers for the Blue Devils Sunday.
“They've been valuable members of the squad and we're gonna miss them,” said Finch. “We know that they're going to be cheering for us.”
The meet featured tough competition with two elite programs, but the Blue Devils demonstrated their depth and showcased swimmers who have not yet had the limelight this year. After this meet, Finch selected Meredith and Rogers to fill out Duke’s ACC Championship roster.
The ACC championships are up next for the Blue Devils. It will take place in Greensboro, N.C., beginning Feb. 14.
“We've seen throughout the year a lot of energy and enthusiasm… and I think with that energy and excitement and just continuing what we've been doing, we're going to have some standout performances and really do well,” said Finch.
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Ranjan Jindal is a Trinity sophomore and an assistant Blue Zone editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.