Duke rewrote the record books this weekend as the swim and dive teams traveled to their first invitationals of the season. Impressive performances in both Greensboro and Knoxville, Tenn., led to big victories and impressive new stats for the Blue Devils.
At the Wolfpack Invitational, the 15th-ranked women quickly made waves with a record-breaking 400-yard medley relay performance. Ali Pfaff led off in the backstroke leg with a time of 52.54, followed by Kaelyn Gridley in the breaststroke (58.14), Aleyna Ozkan in the butterfly (51.49) and Sarah Foley in the freestyle (49.16). Duke’s final time of 3:31.33 set a new school record by two-tenths of a second and was enough to secure a second-place finish.
But one change to the record books wasn’t enough for sophomore Gridley. After securing the top seed in the 100-yard breaststroke with a prelims time of 59.64, she broke Duke’s school record with a finals time of 58.74. The Wilmette, Ill., native was also the only swimmer to finish under one minute, walking away with a first-place title for the Blue Devils. Then, Saturday night, Gridley took home another victory in the 200-yard breaststroke with a finals time of 2:06.92.
Freshman Pfaff was determined to make her mark as well. She won the 100-yard backstroke with a time of 52.12, then broke the school record and placed second in the 200-yard backstroke with a time of 1:53.48.
The Blue Devils made sure to keep the victories rolling throughout the weekend. Senior Ozkan delivered Duke another first-place finish Friday, crushing competition with a time of 51.82 in the 100-yard butterfly. The performance — a personal best by 0.86 seconds — makes her the fourth-best swimmer in Blue Devil history for the event. It should also be fast enough to secure an individual NCAA Championship qualification come spring. Senior Foley grabbed second place finishes in both the 200-yard IM (1:56.13) and 200-yard freestyle (1:45.67), while sophomore Martina Peroni touched second in the 200-yard butterfly with a time of 1:55.80. Overall, the Blue Devil women notched 30 top-eight and 11 top-three finishes over the three days of competition.
The men’s standout performance of the meet came from Blake Johnson, who finished eighth in the 200-yard freestyle with a time of 1:36.86. The junior was Duke’s only male swimmer to qualify for an individual A-final, and he improved upon his prelims time by a tenth of a second when he swam Friday night. The men’s relay teams, however, found some success in Greensboro. The 200-yard freestyle relay secured eighth place with a time of 1:20.81, while the A- and B- 800-yard freestyle relays took home seventh and eighth place with respective times of 6:38.06 and 6:48.20.
The divers, meanwhile, flipped their way to victory at the Tennessee Invitational. Junior Margo O’Meara secured second place in the one-meter dive with a final score of 315.75, while graduate student Ali Watson took 10th. The men’s team had three competitors in the platform diving finals: fifth-place Seamus Harding Jr., sixth-place Charles Berman and ninth-place Will McCollum.
The Blue Devils will return to Greensboro in two weeks for the Toyota U.S. Open, where they will look to build off the strong performances from this invitational. With the swimmers racking up program records and divers posting higher scores, Duke will continue establishing itself as a fierce opponent in the pool.
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