"We are extremely proud of the way the men and women performed this weekend," said head coach Dan Colella. "We had really great performances again both this morning and this evening ... The freshmen in particular, to compete at this caliber in prelims and finals, really raced well and stepped it up."
The first event of the evening session featured strong swims by three Blue Devil rookies in the finals of the women's 1,650-yard freestyle. Kiera Molloy led the way in fifth place, clocking 17:26.92, followed by Meghan Price in sixth with a season-best time of 17:35.12 and Lexi Mendes in seventh at 17:52.33. Senior Alex Harmon paced the Duke men in the mile, touching in 16:11.18 to shave over 20 seconds off of his season-opening time at the All-North Carolina Invitational in October.
After recording a new personal-best of 2:00.29 in the preliminaries of the women's 200 backstroke, sophomore Megan McCarroll took seventh in the evening's championship final with a mark of 2:04.56. In the men's 200 backstroke, fellow sophomore Tyler Toren bested his previous personal record with a time of 1:54.41 in the event preliminaries. Toren returned to the pool Saturday evening to post an eighth-place finish in the 'A' final at 1:55.22.
Two Blue Devils advanced to the championship final of the women's 100 freestyle, including junior Lauren Weaver, who took sixth in a season-best time of 51.85. Freshman Chelsea Ye finished right behind Weaver in seventh, tapping the wall at 52.05. Rookie Sam Skinner also continued his outstanding weekend of competition, dropping time from the morning session to collect a fifth-place finish in the 'A' final with a season-best time of 45.95. Following a season-best swim of 46.01 in the preliminaries, senior Adam Flur turned in a time of 46.36 in the final to place seventh.
Junior Christine Wixted earned her third NCAA provisional qualifying mark in as many days, surpassing the provisional standard in the 200 breaststroke with a 2:13.95 showing to take second in the championship final. Sophomore Katherine Plevka joined Wixted in the 'A' final, coming in fifth at 2:20.92. In a Duke-dominated 200 breaststroke 'A' final on the men's side, junior Hunter Knight just missed an NCAA 'B' cut with a 1:59.80 swim to finish second overall. Senior Jim Zuponeck grabbed fourth place in the event at 2:05.71, followed by junior Tyler Fleming in fifth (2:07.51), senior Evan Schwartz in seventh (2:09.54) and freshman Victor Chen in eighth (2:10.51).
Sophomore Ali Horn was the next Blue Devil to notch a new personal-best, going 2:03.02 in a third-place showing in the 200 butterfly. Molloy also qualified for the 200 butterfly championship final, finishing eighth at 2:08.92 in her second event of the evening session. Sophomore Clay Sanders took sixth in the same event on the men's side, touching at 1:54.68.
The final event of the evening saw Wixted, Ye, Weaver and junior Kelly Hagerty team up for a second-place finish in the women's 400 freestyle relay. The Blue Devils took second behind only Tennessee's 'A' squad with a season-best mark of 3:25.38. In the men's 400 freestyle relay competition, Flur, Skinner, sophomore Stefan Knight and freshman Romain Decrop posted a time of 3:05.06 to come in third.
"I think for a lot of folks, coming here and performing the way they did this weekend, they realized their hard work is paying off," Colella said. "We definitely got what we wanted out of the meet, which was to see where we are and what we need to work on in the back half of the season. This should motivate people to continue to really work hard."
Following six sessions of action over three days at the Volunteers' Allan Jones Intercollegiate Aquatic Center, the Duke men finished third behind host Tennessee (1,264) and Kentucky (1,020) with a team score of 693 points. The Blue Devil women totaled 611.5 points to come in fourth, while Tennessee took first (1,189), followed by Kentucky (847) and Colorado State (772.5).
The squad's swimmers resume action Jan. 12 when they host South Carolina in Taishoff Aquatic Pavilion. The Jan. 12 home meet will also mark Senior Day for the program's 17 seniors. Meanwhile the Duke divers compete next at the Tennessee Diving Invitational in Knoxville Jan. 4-6.