GREENSBORO, N.C. – A weekend full of milestones for the Blue Devil women’s swimmers and divers was capped by a fifth-place team finish – the highest for the women’s program since 1981 – Saturday at the ACC Championships.
Over four days of action in Greensboro, the Duke women totaled 764 points, improving upon the team’s score from a year ago, and featured nine school record-breaking performances and two podium finishes. Junior Kylie Jordan captured the first All-ACC accolades of her career Friday with a third-place showing in the 100-yard butterfly. Her performance marked the fifth time in six years a Blue Devil women’s swimmer has raced to all-conference honors in the event. Freshman Maddi Pullinger followed suit Saturday, claiming All-ACC recognition in one-meter diving.
“It’s been a terrific weekend,” said head coach Dan Colella. “They have really done a magnificent job of racing. I really want to applaud our freshmen, who have done an exceptional job. First time at ACCs can be really nerve-wracking and they stepped up and did an amazing job. Our upperclassmen, great leaders all year. It is all about the process and they have, day in and day out, done what they needed to do in order to have the kind of performances they had here this weekend.”
The Blue Devil men also received a solid start heading into next week’s conference championship behind the efforts of the team’s divers, who totaled 170 points to lead all teams. Senior Evan Moretti was named the league’s Most Valuable Men’s Diver at the conclusion of the meet Saturday after recording a meet-high 77 points across the three boards and garnering All-ACC honors in Thursday's three-meter competition. Moretti joined former Blue Devil Nick McCrory as the only divers in men’s program history to earn the award.
A Blue Devil earned a podium finish for the third straight evening in Greensboro as Pullinger impressed in her first ACC Championships final. She got off to a strong start in the one-meter final, topping the 55-point mark on each of her first two dives. The rookie from Sydney, Australia added 53.30 more points in the fifth round on a reverse 1.5 somersault with 1.5 twists to wrap up the competition in second place (308.40). Senior Mackenzie Willborn, senior Lizzie Fitzpatrick, junior Jaina Gaudette and sophomore Ellie Winslow also scored for Duke in the event with top-24 finishes.
With her performance, Pullinger became the first Blue Devil in women’s program history to garner All-ACC accolades as a freshman since 2018 graduate Leah Goldman captured bronze in the 100-yard butterfly her rookie season.
“For Maddi as a freshman, it’s awesome that she was in the top three,” Esposto said. “This year was kind of a surprise for her, coming from Australia and getting used to American diving, which is a little bit different because the numbers in these contests are so much bigger. It was really nice to see how she handled herself in that one-meter contest.”
Duke’s distance lane was represented by a pair of rookies Saturday in the 1,650 freestyle. Lucy Callard moved up the program’s all-time performance list to third with her time of 16:34.20. Her 1,000-yard split of 10:03.13 ranked sixth in school history. Callard placed 13th in the conference while Shae Nicolaisen took 25th (17:08.26).
Following Pullinger’s podium finish, action returned to the pool where two Blue Devils advanced to 200 backstroke finals. Senior Maddie Hess took down her own program record with a 1:53.82 swim, good for seventh in the championship final. Freshman Shayna Hollander also had a best time, cracking the top three on Duke’s all-time top 10 in placing 21st overall (1:56.63).
In the 100 freestyle, freshman Melissa Pish continued what has been an impressive debut at the conference championship, moving up to second on the all-time performance list at 48.86. That showing put her second in the bonus final and 18th overall. Sophomore Halle Morris followed in the bonus final of the 200 breaststroke, placing 24th (2:16.32) after notching a career-best mark of 2:16.17 in preliminaries.
Three Blue Devils qualified for finals in the 200 butterfly, led by freshman Cabell Ann Whitlow in the event championship final. Whitlow, who competed in consolation finals the previous two evenings, was seventh for Duke Saturday night (1:56.78). She tapped the wall at 1:56.56 in preliminaries for the second-fastest time in school history. Junior Kylie Jordan came in 11th (1:57.56) and sophomore Carly Perri in 14th (1:59.83).
Back on the boards, it was the men’s turn on the platform Saturday. A finalist in all three diving events this week, Moretti turned in a career-best award of 372.55 for fourth and junior Nathaniel Hernandez placed seventh (308.00). Freshman Harel Anolick and senior Josh Owsiany also scored for the Blue Devil men with their performances in preliminaries, finishing 20th and 22nd, respectively.
“Evan’s been a consistent performer over the last four years and it was just awesome for him to get Most Valuable Diver,” Esposto said. “He had a really good meet across all three events. It was nice to see him on the podium on three-meter, getting second, and finishing off his senior year in that way.”
The final event of the meet saw junior Alyssa Marsh, Hess, senior Hunter Aitchison and Pish take fourth in the 400 freestyle relay (3:15.35). Marsh broke her own school record in the 100 freestyle with a 48.27 split on the leadoff leg.
“To finish up on the swimming side with a fourth-place finish in the 400 free relay – it’s one of our highest finishes in that event ever,” Colella said. “There’s more swimming to be done. We’re looking forward to Austin. But I just really want to thank all the women for a great year and all the dedication and hard work.”
The Duke men head to Greensboro to compete at the ACC Championships beginning Wednesday.
1) NC State 1353 2) Virginia 1282 3) Louisville 1146 4) Notre Dame 909.5 5) Duke 764 6) Florida State 727 7) North Carolina 700.5 8) Virginia Tech 477.5 9) Georgia Tech 360 10) Pitt 334 11) Miami 293.5 12) Boston College 154
Top Duke Finishers by Event:
Women’s 1,650-Yard Freestyle: Lucy Callard (13th), 16:34.20
Women’s One-Meter Diving: Maddi Pullinger (2nd), 308.40
Women’s 200-Yard Backstroke: Maddie Hess (7th), 1:53.82
Women’s 100-Yard Freestyle: Melissa Pish (18th), 48.86
Women’s 200-Yard Breaststroke: Halle Morris (24th), 2:16.32
Women’s 200-Yard Butterfly: Cabell Ann Whitlow (7th), 1:56.78
Men’s Platform Diving: Evan Moretti (4th), 372.55