DURHAM, N.C. – Seniors Hunter Knight and Christine Wixted swept the men’s and women’s breaststroke events and classmate Nick McCrory set a pair of pool records on the boards, but the Blue Devils ultimately fell to a pair of nationally-ranked North Carolina squads in the regular season home finale Saturday afternoon at Taishoff Aquatic Pavilion.
The Duke women fell to 4-4 overall and 1-3 in ACC competition with a 157-134 loss to the ninth-ranked Tar Heel women, and the Blue Devil men dropped to 2-4 overall and 0-3 in the conference following the 172-120 setback to the 16th-ranked North Carolina men.
“It’s always good to swim our Tobacco Road rival, UNC,” Knight said. “It’s a great meet so it was a good way to go out and finish – just stepping up and racing some high-quality, ACC competition.”
Duke’s senior class of Jonathan Derlath, Tyler Fleming, Kelly Hagerty, Knight, Eneka Lamb, Tricia Leeson, McCrory, Lauren Weaver, Wixted and manager Katie Howard were honored prior to competing in Taishoff for the final time in their careers.
“North Carolina has a tremendous amount of depth, but I felt like we did what we wanted to do,” said head coach Dan Colella. “To be able to win some events, I think, is really important as we continue to push forward … It was a great way to finish up and a great way to send off the seniors.”
The Blue Devil women took the Tar Heels to the wire in the opening event of the day, the 400-yard medley relay. Sophomore Chelsea Ye, Wixted, sophomore Linsay Cooper and freshman Maddie Rusch combined for a 3:47.12 clocking to finish just behind North Carolina’s ‘A’ team (3:46.12). On the men’s side, freshman Kaz Takabayashi, senior Hunter Knight, sophomore Kenny Ng and freshman Bradley Cline took third at 3:22.10.
Freshman Sam Sherman and Derlath each posted season-best marks in the men’s 1,000 freestyle, with Sherman going 9:49.82 to finish third and Derlath 10:02.87 to take fourth. Freshman Bradley Cline followed with a strong performance in the men’s 200 freestyle, tapping the wall at 1:41.19 to place second. The 100 backstroke events featured more fast swims by Duke freshmen, as Jessie Sutherland finished second (56.64) and Joey Maginnis touched third (52.28).
The Blue Devils picked up their first individual wins of the day in the 100 breaststroke events, as Wixted (1:03.18) and graduate student Emily Barber (1:03.76) went one-two on the women’s side and Knight won the men’s race (55.76), followed by freshman Dylan Payne in third (57.22). The Duke women also edged North Carolina in the sprint races, with Weaver claiming the 50 freestyle (23.14) and Rusch turning in a first-place finish in the 100 freestyle (51.12).
In the diving well, McCrory continued what has been a dominant season on the springboards, breaking his own program and facility record on the 3-meter board with a score of 519.00. The Chapel Hill, N.C., native also set a pool record in the 1-meter competition, registering an award of 478.43 to finish first there as well. Sophomore Deon Reid placed second in both men’s diving events, while sophomore Kendall McClenney was second in the women’s 1-meter competition and classmate Jaimee Gundry also took second at the 3-meter height with a personal-best score of 292. 13.
Following the break, freshman Liza Bragg won the women’s 200 backstroke for the second time in as many meets, besting the field with a 2:04.07 swim. Wixted and Barber swept the top two spots in the women’s 200 breaststroke and Knight once again claimed the race on the men’s side at 2:02.48. Rusch then collected her second individual win of the meet in the 100 butterfly (55.95), while freshman Kaz Takabayashi took second on the men’s side.
Wixted and Cline closed out the individual events with first and second-place finishes, respectively, in the 200 IM, before the Tar Heels claimed the women’s and men’s 200 freestyle relays.
“It’s bittersweet,” Wixted said. “It’s been a great three years, but it’s kind of weird that it’s all coming to end. To close it out with three wins against a great team, I think it was really good.”
The Blue Devil men and women will resume action in two weeks when they send representatives to the Cavalier Invite Feb. 14-15 in Charlottesville, Va.
Men’s Team Score
North Carolina 172, Duke 120
Women’s Team Score
North Carolina 157, Duke 134
Men’s Individual Event Winners:
1-Meter Diving: Nick McCrory , 478.43
3-Meter Diving: Nick McCrory, 519.00
100 Breaststroke: Hunter Knight, 55.76
200 Breaststroke: Hunter Knight, 2:02.48
Women’s Individual Event Winners:
100 Breaststroke: Christine Wixted, 1:03.18
50 Freestyle: Lauren Weaver, 23.14
100 Freestyle: Maddie Rusch, 51.12
200 Backstroke: Liza Bragg, 2:04.07
200 Breaststroke: Christine Wixted, 2:18.23
100 Butterfly: Maddie Rusch, 55.95
200 IM: Christine Wixted, 2:07.81