MINNEAPOLIS – The Blue Devil women kicked off the 2014 NCAA Division I Swimming and Diving Championship in record-breaking fashion Thursday, eclipsing the 200-yard freestyle relay program record in the opening event of the three-day championship meet.
Duke’s team of senior Lauren Weaver, freshman Maddie Rusch, sophomore Kathryn Eckhart and sophomore Chelsea Ye dropped time from their ACC Championship performance of 1:30.01 to tap the wall at 1:29.90 during Thursday morning’s trials. That time placed the Blue Devils second in the first heat of the day and 23rd overall out of 27 relay squads.
Weaver led off the relay with a 22.42 clocking, followed by splits of 22.00 and 22.85 from Rusch and Eckhart and a 22.63 anchor leg by Ye. The relay was the first in women’s program history to compete at an NCAA Championship meet, with the Blue Devils’ 200 medley relay set to race Friday after earning an automatic qualifying berth.
“We’re very proud of all four of the women who competed on the relay,” said head coach Dan Colella. “The 1:30 barrier is a significant barrier in that event. Lauren led off and then Maddie Rusch going 22 flat was a significant split, and Kathryn Eckhart and Chelsea Ye did a tremendous job bringing it home.”
Weaver returned to the water later in the day for the preliminaries of the 50 freestyle. An All-ACC performer in the event this season after taking third at last month’s conference championship, she turned in a time of 22.35 Thursday. Weaver finished 26th out of 54 swimmers, improving upon her showing at last year’s NCAA Championship by 10 spots. In addition, the 22.35 mark was the Cincinnati, Ohio native’s second-fastest of the season behind her school-record time of 22.19 at the ACC Championship.
“Lauren has been a huge contributor to the program and has just done an outstanding job in that event the last four years,” Colella said.
The Georgia women lead the field after one day of competition with 189 points, followed by Stanford (136), California (126), Southern California (103) and Texas A&M (86.5).
The NCAA Championship continues Friday with the preliminaries and finals of the 200 medley relay, 400 IM, 100 butterfly, 200 freestyle, 100 breaststroke, 100 backstroke, 800 freestyle relay and three-meter diving. Trials begin at 12 p.m. ET in Minneapolis followed by finals at 8 p.m. ET. Live results and live video will be available for both sessions, with the evening finals slated to be streamed live on ESPN3.
Freshman Jessie Sutherland, Wixted, Rusch and Weaver will compete in the 200 medley relay, while Weaver will also represent Duke in the 100 butterfly and Wixted in the 100 breaststroke.