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Duke rowing sweeps nearly all races, secures second-place finish at Lake Wheeler Invitational

Duke rowing earned second place overall at the Lake Wheeler Invitational.
Duke rowing earned second place overall at the Lake Wheeler Invitational.

The Blue Devils were back on home turf this weekend as they co-hosted the Lake Wheeler Invitational with North Carolina. Amidst a competitive field of 17 other teams, Duke rowers raced six boats in 18 races and clinched second place in the regatta overall.

“It was just a really, really great weekend,” Megan Cooke Carcagno said. “It felt like we could showcase the best of North Carolina to teams from all over the country.”

The Blue Devils kicked off the competition in their Third Varsity Eight, which cruised to victory with a time of 7:28.175. Led by coxswain Sophia Papini and made up almost entirely of freshman and seniors, the boat finished a full six seconds ahead of second-place Alabama. Then, the Fourth Varsity Eight took to the water and collected another first-place finish for Duke, rowing past Clemson and finishing with a time of 7:22.376. From there, the team’s momentum seemed unstoppable: the Second Varsity Four, Varsity Four and Second Varsity Eight each raced past other teams to secure top times by closer four-second margins.

“I’m really impressed by our Varsity Four,” Carcagno emphasized. “I think that they’re starting to show some good speed, they clicked really well and they took on and beat two higher-ranked teams.”

The last race of the morning threatened to upset the Blue Devil sweep, with the Varsity Eight matchup against Alabama coming down to a photo-finish. But Duke edged out the Crimson Tide by a mere 0.388 seconds, cataloging its sixth win of six races. As if that weren’t enough, the 3V8, 2V4, 1V4 and 2V8 raced again on Friday afternoon, beating their morning times and securing four more first-place victories.

As Saturday morning dawned, Duke rowers sat only four points behind fifth-ranked Tennessee. Friends, family, and fellow Blue Devils came out to cheer on the team for the final day of competition.

“It was incredible,” Carcagno said about the support. “It was overwhelming, the amount of support that we had at the Regatta. The school band even came out to play for us, which was amazing.”

With Duke spirit behind them, the Blue Devils fought valiantly to edge the Volunteers out, sending Fourth Varsity Eight and Third Varsity Eight boats across the finish line with times of 7:06.835 and 6:52.930. Both secured first-place titles, as did the Varsity Four and Second Varsity Four that later clocked times of 7:26.946 and 7:16.775.

After grabbing the four additional victories, Blue Devil momentum suddenly faltered. In a tight race against Syracuse and Penn, Duke’s 2V8 fell to the Orange by a margin of 1.680 seconds. Yet it managed to hold off the Quakers by a mere 0.264 seconds and secure silver. In the last race of the competition, the Varsity Eight boat lagged behind and finished with a third-place 6:36.569.

The early sweeps were enough to earn the Blue Devils 84 team points over the course of the regatta. Though Tennessee stayed ahead and clinched the Pocock Cup after tallying 99 points, Duke secured second place by a margin of nine against UCF.

“We learned a lot,” Carcagno said. “Not only about how to race but what combinations are moving well for us. I think we’re excited to put in the work over the next few weeks and get ready for ACCs.”

The Blue Devils will be back in the water for ACC Championships May 17-18, which they will again co-host with North Carolina at Lake Wheeler. Duke will certainly look to continue building upon its powerful performances and deliver key victories against a field of competitive teams.

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