PRINCETON, N.J. – The Blue Devils posted first-place finishes in eight individual and one relay event Saturday to wrap up competition at the Big Al Invitational. The Duke women took first in the two-day meet with a total of 1,098 points while the men placed second in the five-team field with 756 points.
“We were incredibly excited about going up to Princeton," said head coach Dan Colella. "It was a new venue and we swam against some teams we don’t normally swim. We couldn’t be more excited about how they stepped up and performed. It was another nice test as we head into Tennessee. A little bit more swimming than we normally see in a dual meet. Having three sessions like that definitely tests them and they passed with flying colors. Each session I think we actually performed better and better. Very proud of the freshmen and the way they competed in that setting with that championship environment.”
Seniors Hunter Aitchison and Maddie Hess turned in first-place finishes in the 100-yard freestyle (49.85) and 200 backstroke (1:55.36), respectively, and joined freshmen Melissa Pish and Shayna Hollander on the winning 400 freestyle relay. The group clocked 3:18.22 at the end of the meet for eighth on Duke’s all-time top 10. A day after taking home individual victories in the women’s 200 and 400 individual medley, freshman Cabell Ann Whitlow added another win in the 100 butterfly. Her time of 1:59.23 also cracked the program’s all-time performance list.
Also taking home individual wins were sophomores Connie Dean (2:16.38) and Adam Zimmer (2:02.87) in the women’s and men’s 200 breaststroke, senior Yusuke Legard in the men’s 100 freestyle (44.12) and freshman Matthew Whelan in the men’s 200 butterfly. Whelan’s time of 1:48.86 was good for the eighth-fastest in school history. In addition, freshman Maddi Pullinger claimed the women’s one-meter diving competition (293.15) to round out a strong showing by the Blue Devil divers at the meet. Fellow rookie Harel Anolick was second Saturday in the men’s three-meter event (310.95).
Senior Riley Hickman (15:38.40), sophomore Spencer LaFata (15:44.55) and sophomore Zach Washart (15:45.02) were second, third and fourth, respectively, in the men’s 1,650 freestyle while Pish was second (16:49.19) and junior Brittany Kampfer third (16:55.31) in the same event on the women’s side.
“On the men’s side, Sean Tate and Yusuke Legard, two of our seniors, really stepped up and did a great job," Colella said. "Nathaniel Hartley had a great meet. Us being short a few individuals because of the ACC/Big 10 Challenge, I was very impressed with the way people stepped up to fill those shoes. Really one of the highlights on the women’s side was the 4x100 free relay. For them to go sub-4:20, I thought that was just a real exclamation on the end of the meet.”
With the Big Al Invitational in the books, the Duke program now shifts its attention to West Lafayette, Ind., where eight members of the program will represent the ACC at the inaugural ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Action begins this evening at 5 p.m. at Purdue’s Morgan J. Burke Aquatic Center and on BTN Plus on BTN2Go.
Duke Women 1,098, Northwestern 837, Penn State 687, Lehigh 640, Princeton 520
Princeton Men 897, Duke 756, Northwestern 749.5, Penn State 710, Lehigh 627.5
Women’s 400-Yard Freestyle Relay: Maddie Hess, Melissa Pish, Shayna Hollander, Hunter Aitchison (1st), 3:18.22
Men’s 400-Yard Freestyle Relay: Cole Reznick, Colson Zucker, David Hallaron, Matthew Whelan (7th), 3:07.28