Duke rowing 2024 season preview

The Blue Devils enter this season looking to shatter the traditional ACC order after an impressive 2023 campaign.
The Blue Devils enter this season looking to shatter the traditional ACC order after an impressive 2023 campaign.


With spring fast approaching, Duke is poised to enter the 2024 rowing season as a powerhouse. The Blue Devils will look to continue boosting the program’s reputation under head coach Megan Cooke Carcagno after finishing third in the ACC Championships last year.

Duke opened its 2023 season strong at the two-day Oak Ridge Cardinal Invitational, winning 12 of 18 races and placing second in the rest. The team also managed to bring the Pocock Cup back home from the Lake Wheeler Invitational for the third time in four years. At the ACC Championships, the team placed all five boats into grand final races, where three won silver medals and two collected bronze. The team then delivered a best-ever program finish at the NCAA Championships, placing 14th with a total of 56 points. 

This year, the Blue Devils — led by captains Morgan Linsley, Brenna Morley and Mollie Nicol — will hope to top last season’s performance. Both Linsley and Morley helped Duke’s Second Varsity Eight to a first-place finish in the NCAA C Final, while Linsley was one of two Blue Devils to represent Duke at the U23 women’s sweep selection camp in Oklahoma City. With both the freshman class and other veterans also showing great promise, the 2024 season looks to be an electrifying campaign.

“There’s a ton of reasons why this can be our fastest team that we’ve ever put on the water,” Cooke Carcagno said. “I think the team has really stepped up.”

New rowers to watch: Florine Lijesen and Avery Packard

There are many stars among the incoming class of rowers. In fact, Cooke Carcagno struggled to highlight just one athlete. 

“I think all of the freshmen are doing really, really well,” she said. “It’s hard to pick one. They’re amazing.”

However, Avery Packard will certainly be someone to keep an eye on. The Brookline, Mass., native has already helped Duke to victory this year as part of a Novice Eight boat that finished first at the Rivanna Romp this fall. Packard has also competed on an international stage, joining Duke graduate Megan Lee this past summer to represent the United States at the 2023 World Rowing Championships. 

Cooke Carcagno also pointed to Florine Lijesen, a Miami native whose older sister rowed on the team for four years. Lijesen was a standout high-school rower and also competed well at the Rivanna Romp in the Varsity Eight B boat this fall.

Returning rowers to watch: Kathryn Nash, Brenna Morley and Ithika Senthilnathan

Duke, with its many talented veterans, is built on a solid foundation. 

Among the returning stars are seniors Kathryn Nash, Brenna Morley and Ithika Senthilnathan. Each of the three competed in all eight regattas last season and were integral members of the V8+ boats that won bronze at the ACC Championships and third place in the C Final of the NCAA Championships.

Nash was also recently named to the Preseason ACC Rowing Watch List, an honor given to only one student-athlete from each program. 

“As seniors, they are doing a really good job in those top boats,” Cooke Carcagno said. She also added that “the entire sophomore class has really stepped up and are filling some really pivotal roles that were left by some seniors last year.” 

Most anticipated matchup: Big Ten Invite, April 19-20

The rowing season is not packed with competition. In fact, the 2024 campaign includes only two matchups and three invitationals ahead of the ACC Championships in mid-May. Of those, the Big Ten Invite is the one to keep an eye on.

“It’s a really important regatta for us,” Cooke Carcagno said.

Although Duke did not compete at the event last year, it provided a few valuable wins during the 2022 campaign. The regatta offers a chance to face off against prominent teams from around the country, including Stanford, Michigan, Rutgers and Virgina. It also gives the Blue Devils an opportunity to size up competition ahead of the NCAA Championships.

Cooke Carcagno added that though not as high-stakes, the Lake Wheeler Invitational is a favorite of the team.

“It has a special place in our heart,” she said, “because it's on the ACC course here at home when we get to have all of our friends and family come watch us.”

Best-case scenario

With a talented new class and powerful returning roster, Duke has the potential to make waves in the search for a conference crown. Building upon last season’s success, the Blue Devils could finally upset powerhouses Syracuse and Virginia to bring home the ACC title. If they can do so, chances of a top-10 or top-eight finish at the NCAA national regatta, while unlikely, are not entirely out of reach.

Worst-case scenario

Duke has struggled for years to prove its mettle against the Cavaliers and Orange. The former has won the ACC Championship for 13 straight years, while the Blue Devils and the Orange have wrestled inconclusively at invitationals and championships for several seasons. Against such tough competition, a slip-up at the wrong moment could be all it takes to crush Blue Devil hopes of a championship victory. In that case, Duke risks a stalled campaign and a repeat of last year’s moderately (but not wildly) successful season.


Second in the ACC, 11th at NCAA Championships


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