DURHAM, N.C. – The Blue Devil swimming and diving teams took on a pair of nationally-ranked Virginia squads Friday evening on Senior Night in Taishoff Aquatics Pavilion.
The 22nd-ranked Duke women (5-2, 1-2 ACC) suffered a 175-125 setback to the fifth-ranked Cavalier women, while on the men’s side the Blue Devils (5-2, 0-2 ACC) were unable to hold off 15th-ranked Virginia, falling 164-135.
Despite the dual meet losses, Duke featured several highlights on the night, including a facility record by senior Maddie Rusch in the 50-yard freestyle, two breaststroke wins by senior Peter Kropp and victories in three of the four relay events. The program also received a boost in diving, with Blue Devils earning first-place finishes in all four events.
“It’s Senior Day, it’s their last home meet,” said head coach Dan Colella. “They always seem to find another gear. We knew coming in that Virginia, on paper, they were the better team, and they came out the victors tonight. However, we’re as a staff incredibly proud of how we raced. This is what we wanted to do – we wanted to stand up and really give these guys a battle this evening. I really think they did that.”
The Blue Devil divers kicked off the afternoon with a strong showing on the platform. Freshman Jaina Gaudette (251.78), redshirt senior Jaimee Gundry and sophomore Mackenzie Willborn swept the top three spots on the women’s side, with each surpassing the NCAA Zones standard in the event. Freshman Nathaniel Hernandez was just as impressive for the Duke men, winning the competition with an award of 371.70 – good for the second-highest in program history.
After honoring 18 Blue Devil seniors and friends of the program Max and Mia Elston, Duke kept the momentum rolling in the 200-yard medley relays. The quartet of sophomore Maddie Hess, senior Ashleigh Shanley, freshman Alyssa Marsh and Rusch (1:40.23) raced to a first-place finish ahead of the Cavaliers, as did senior Kaz Takabayashi, Kropp, senior Michael Miller and sophomore Yusuke Legard (1:27.83) on the men’s side.
After Virginia claimed the top spots in the 1,000 and 200 freestyle events, Duke responded with a win in the women’s 100 backstroke. Hess was first to the wall at 54.82 for an NCAA ‘B’ cut while classmate Mickayla Hinkle took third (56.30). Takabayashi (48.73) and sophomore Max St. George (48.94) were second and third, respectively, in the same event for the Blue Devil men. The men’s team then surged past the Cavaliers with a one-two-three performance in the 100 breaststroke, as Kropp (53.54), senior Dylan Payne (54.41) and sophomore Judd Howard (56.35) combined for the sweep.
Duke’s sprint group shined heading into the first intermission, with Rusch breaking a Taishoff record at 22.68 in the women’s 50 freestyle and Legard claiming the men’s 50-yard race (20.60). Legard also took second at the 100-yard distance (45.38), as did junior Leah Goldman (50.57) for the women.
Hess (2:00.04) and senior Liza Bragg (2:01.85) finished second and third, respectively, in the women’s 200 backstroke before Kropp (2:02.27) and senior Michael Seaberg (2:02.42) went one-two in the men’s 200 breaststroke. Marsh returned to the water to post a win in the women’s 100 butterfly (53.88), while Goldman (54.12) was third. The men’s 100 butterfly saw Payne clock a career-best 48.92 in a third-place finish.
In the final event of the evening, the men’s 200 freestyle relay of Legard, Payne, Seaberg and freshman Miles Williams cruised to a win at 1:20.68.
Friday evening’s competition marked the final meet in Taishoff for Duke’s 18 seniors – Bragg, Rahul Chokshi, Bradley Cline, Kevin Fraser, Brittany Friese, Gundry, Kropp, Joey Maginnis, Miller, Payne, Quinn, Rusch, Lindsay Schlichte, Seaberg, Shanley, Jessie Sutherland, Takabayashi and Colleen Wixted.
The Blue Devils close regular season action next Saturday, Jan. 28 in a 1 p.m. dual meet at North Carolina’s Koury Natatorium in Chapel Hill.
No. 5 Virginia Women 175, No. 22 Duke Women 125
No. 13 Virginia Men 164, Duke Men 135
Women’s 200-Yard Medley Relay: Maddie Hess, Ashleigh Shanley, Alyssa Marsh, Maddie Rusch (1st), 1:40.23
Men’s 200-Yard Medley Relay: Kaz Takabayashi, Peter Kropp, Michael Miller, Yusuke Legard (1st), 1:27.83
Women’s 200-Yard Freestyle Relay: Alyssa Marsh, Maddie Hess, Leah Goldman, Maddie Rusch (2nd), 1:31.41
Men’s 200-Yard Freestyle Relay: Yusuke Legard, Dylan Payne, Michael Seaberg, Miles Williams (1st), 1:20.68