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Courtesy: Duke Athletics
Maddie Rusch and Nathaniel Hernandez
Duke Qualifies 200 Medley Relay to NCAAs
Courtesy: Duke Sports Information
Release: 02/13/2017
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ATLANTA – Duke’s 200-yard medley relay punched its ticket to the 2017 NCAA Championships and two school records were broken on a thrilling first evening of action at the ACC Women’s Swimming & Diving Championships, hosted by Georgia Tech at the McAuley Aquatics Center.

With one day of competition in the books, the Blue Devil women sit in third place behind North Carolina (153) and Louisville (149) with a total score of 144 points. 

In the opening event of the conference championship, the Blue Devil quartet of sophomore Maddie Hess, senior Ashleigh Shanley, freshman Alyssa Marsh and senior Maddie Rusch surpassed the NCAA automatic standard with a 1:37.19 clocking, also taking down the previous school record of 1:37.91 in the process. The group earned a sixth-place finish overall, with each of the top six relay teams all coming in under the NCAA automatic standard.

The Duke women automatically qualified a relay to NCAAs for the second time in program history. Rusch was a member of the Blue Devils’ 200 medley relay that garnered automatic qualification in 2014.

“The ACC has really come on here in the last couple of years,” said head coach Dan Colella. “To have six teams make the ‘A’ cut is absolutely incredible. It’s always nice to get that first automatic out of the way. I know the swimmers on that relay are going to find that they’re a lot more relaxed and ready to go. It’s a big boost to everybody’s confidence to open up and have a performance like that.” 

In the 800 freestyle relay, junior Verity Abel, sophomore Hunter Aitchison, senior Brittany Friese and junior Leah Goldman shaved nearly four seconds off of the previous school record at 7:08.99. The relay was also just off the NCAA provisional standard in an eighth-place finish.

Men’s and women’s diving events also got underway Monday in Atlanta, with freshman Nathaniel Hernandez impressing in his ACC Championship debut. The Southlake, Texas native advanced to the men’s one-meter springboard finals after taking fifth in preliminaries (315.05). Hernandez scored in the 40s on each of his first two dives but rounded out his list with awards of 52 or better in each of the final four rounds. He topped the 60-point mark in the fourth and sixth rounds to finish with a total score of 321.90, good for fifth overall.  

“Nate did a very, very good job today,” said head diving coach Nunzio Esposto. “It was his first ACC Championships event so I was really glad, first of all, that he finaled, and second of all that he was the highest-scoring freshman of the meet on one-meter. That was really good to see. He handled himself well. He was jumping really well today and very, very consistent in his performance.” 

Sophomore Mackenzie Willborn led the Blue Devils in the women’s three-meter springboard preliminaries, placing ninth at 291.70. Lizzie Fitzpatrick was 14th with a career-best award of 273.60, followed by senior Kirby Quinn in 15th (272.85) and junior MaryEllen Targonski in 18th (264.60).

“Everybody scored that competed, which is absolutely terrific,” Colella said of the diving group. “The women are in third place, and that’s a combination of the relays and what the women did on three-meter today. There were some outstanding performances from them today.” 

Tuesday’s events at the ACC Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships include the 500 freestyle, 200 individual medley, 50 freestyle and women’s one-meter diving. Preliminaries begin at 10 a.m. and finals at 6 p.m., with the finals session being broadcast on ACC Network Extra. Live results will also be available.

Team Scores:
1) North Carolina 153 2) Louisville 149 3) Duke 144 4) Virginia Tech 134 5) Miami 127 6) NC State 126 7) Florida State 124 8) Notre Dame 106 9) Virginia 102 10) Georgia Tech 90 11) Pittsburgh 88 12) Boston College 62 13) Clemson 27

1) Virginia Tech 52 2) Miami 48 2) Pittsburgh 48 4) North Carolina 45 5) Duke 37 6) Florida State 35 7) Notre Dame 34 8) Louisville 25 9) Virginia 16 10) Georgia Tech 13 11) NC State 9

Top Duke Finishers by Event:
Women’s 200-Yard Medley Relay:
Maddie Hess, Ashleigh Shanley, Alyssa Marsh, Maddie Rusch (6th), 1:37.19

Men’s 1-Meter Diving: Nathaniel Hernandez (5th), 321.90

Women’s 800-Yard Freestyle Relay: Verity Abel, Hunter Aitchison, Brittany Friese, Leah Goldman (8th), 7:08.99

Women’s 3-Meter Diving: Mackenzie Willborn (9th), 291.70


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