The Blue Devils commenced their 2023-24 season Saturday in an away matchup against Virginia Tech. While the No. 15 women’s team emerged victorious 183-117, the men came up on the short end of a 166-120 score.
The meet kicked off at the Christiansburg Aquatic Center with an electric women’s 400-yard medley relay. In an exciting race, the team of Ali Pfaff, Kaelyn Gridley, Aleyna Ozkan and Sarah Foley swam a time of 3:38.31 to deliver the Blue Devils their first first-place finish of the season. Only a short time later, Foley managed to take second in the 200-yard freestyle with a time of 1:49.26.
Pfaff, a freshman, came out of the gate strong in the 100-yard backstroke to seize another first-place finish for the Blue Devils. Her time of 53.94 was almost three seconds faster than the next finisher, fellow freshman Molly Donlan at 56.80. Sophomore Madeline Meredith touched just behind both her teammates at 56.85, allowing Duke to sweep the podium in the event. Also bringing home first-place finishes for the women’s team Saturday were Catherine Purnell and Gridley, while Audrey Portello raced her way to her first collegiate individual win.
The men’s team faced a tougher battle against the 11th-ranked Hokies. Though Michael Jiang, Blake Johnson and Colton McGrady each put up strong swims, it wasn’t enough to keep the Blue Devils on top, and they fell short in race after race.
In the diving well, the Blue Devils found nothing but success. Freshman Charles Berman took first place in the 1-meter dive, with junior and teammate Will McCollum finishing second. On the women’s side, junior Margo O’Meara flipped her way to first, while sophomore Josie Zilling took third to round out the finishers.
Duke also shone in the 3-meter dive, with both the women’s and men’s teams sweeping the podium. Berman grabbed another first-place finish while Seamus Harding Jr. and McCollum rounded out the men’s podium. Ali Watson, Emily Rakestraw and Zilling secured the top three finishes for the ladies.
The Blue Devils will return home to the Taishoff Aquatic Center for a meet Friday against UNC Wilmington, the first of new head coach Brian Barnes’ tenure. This time with home-pool advantage, the men will look to secure their first win while the women attempt to build upon their powerful debut victory.
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