DURHAM, N.C. – The Duke swimming and diving teams opened the spring portion of the 2016-17 campaign with a pair of victories over SEC foe South Carolina Saturday in Taishoff Aquatics Pavilion. The 23rd-ranked Blue Devil women came away with a 167-133 victory and the men topped the Gamecocks, 160.5-139.5 in a dual that came down to the final event of the meet.
With the wins, both Duke squads improved to 5-1 heading into next weekend’s regular season finale against Virginia.
“Always excited about a win,” said head coach Dan Colella. “We knew that the men’s meet would probably go down right to the last relay, which it did … Really proud of the guys. South Carolina came in the first half of the meet, and even though we had won some of the events, their energy and attitude was such that if we didn’t really turn things around mid-meet, I think the final result would have been very different. We’re very proud of them and how they stepped up in the second half of the competition.”
Individually, the Blue Devils featured a trio of double-event winners in the pool, with junior Verity Abel taking both women’s distance events, senior Maddie Rusch the women’s sprint races and sophomore Max St. George the men’s backstroke events. Freshman Nathaniel Hernandez headlined a one-two-three finish by the Duke divers in the men’s 3-meter springboard competition and Blue Devil swimmers also claimed three of the four relays on the day.
Duke’s relay teams set the tone early, taking the top two spots in both the women and men’s 200-yard medley relays. The women’s team of sophomore Mickayla Hinkle, senior Ashleigh Shanley, freshman Alyssa Marsh and Rusch broke a Taishoff Aquatics Pavilion record in a 1:40.24 performance before the quartet of senior Kaz Takabayashi, senior Peter Kropp senior Michael Miller and sophomore Yusuke Legard took first in 1:28.60.
After Abel claimed the women’s 1,000 freestyle (10:04.90), the score went back and forth with South Carolina wins in the men’s 1,000 freestyle and both 200 freestyle events. However, the Blue Devils responded with a strong showing in the 100 backstroke, as Maddie Hess and Hinkle combined for a one-two finish in the women’s race. Hess came in under the NCAA provisional standard at 54.47. St. George (48.54) followed with a victory in the men’s race while Takabayashi tied the Gamecocks’ Jonathan Boland for second (48.92).
Shanley and junior Isabella Paez widened the margin on the women’s side with a pair of first-place performances in the 100 breaststroke and 200 butterfly, respectively. Duke then received a boost in the sprint events, with Blue Devils sweeping all four races. Rusch was first to the wall in the women’s 50 and 100 freestyle, earning an NCAA ‘B’ cut at the 50-yard distance with a mark of 22.88. Senior Michael Seaberg (20.74) and Legard (20.88) bested the field in the men’s 50 freestyle before Legard won the 100-yard event (45.76).
St. George returned to the water to collect a first-place finish in the men’s 200 backstroke (1:47.53) while Hess (2:01.57) and senior Liza Bragg (2:01.97) were second and third, respectively, in the same event on the women’s side. Shanley (2:17.90) and Kropp (2:02.27) turned in second-place performances in the 200 breaststroke and Abel cruised to her second win of the day, this one coming in the 500 freestyle (4:54.37).
In diving, Hernandez led a one-two-three finish by the Blue Devil men on the 3-meter springboard. Hernandez netted an award of 371.25, followed by sophomores Josh Owsiany (329.40) and Evan Moretti (324.83). In the women’s 3-meter competition, senior Kirby Quinn posted a season-best score of 300.30 in a second-place finish. Freshman Lizzie Fitzpatrick (283.80) and Moretti (332.40) were also second in the 1-meter events.
The South Carolina men placed swimmers in each of the top four spots in the 200 IM, narrowing the margin to just eight points heading into the final event, the 400 freestyle relay. Duke was able to reclaim the momentum to close the meet, securing the victory with first and second-place finishes. Junior Alex Peña, senior Bradley Cline, Kropp and freshman Miles Williams led the way at 3:03.28 and Legard, sophomore Sean Tate, Seaberg and Takabayashi were second (3:03.49).
The Blue Devils return to Taishoff Friday to host ACC opponent Virginia on Senior Night. The dual meet begins at 5 p.m. and will be streamed on ACC Network Extra.
“This being our first competition since December, we were pleased with the performances, but not ecstatic,” Colella said. “There were some individuals who did have some great, great performances today but in order to really compete with Virginia and UNC it’s going to take a huge team effort.”
Duke Women 167, South Carolina Women 133
Duke Men 160.5, South Carolina Men 139.5
Women’s 200-Yard Medley Relay: Mickayla Hinkle, Ashleigh Shanley, Alyssa Marsh, Maddie Rusch (1st), 1:40.24
Men’s 200-Yard Medley Relay: Kaz Takabayashi, Peter Kropp, Michael Miller, Yusuke Legard (1st), 1:28.60
Women’s 400-Yard Freestyle Relay: Maddie Hess, Isabella Paez, Kylie Jordan, Alyssa Marsh (2nd), 3:29.87
Men’s 400-Yard Freestyle Relay: Alex Peña, Bradley Cline, Peter Kropp, Miles Williams (1st), 3:03.28