GREENSBORO, N.C. - Five Duke swimmers earned spots in the 100-yard breaststroke finals with junior Hunter Knight claiming the first All-ACC honors of his career Friday on the third day of the 2013 Atlantic Coast Conference Men's Swimming & Diving Championships. The strong showing by the breaststroke lane, coupled with points earned by the team's divers last week on the 3-meter springboard, helped the Duke men move up to sixth in the team standings heading into the final day of competition.
"Across the board, this was probably one of the better nights we've had in the last five years in terms of performances," said head coach Dan Colella. "Just about everybody on the team got an opportunity to race again tonight, which is significant. We couldn't be more proud of our guys and what they've been doing here this weekend. We're just looking forward to the last day of competition."
After finishing eighth in the 100 breaststroke at the 2012 ACC Championships, Hunter Knight moved up five spots in Friday evening's championship final, placing third with a personal-best and NCAA provisionally-qualifying time of 53.72 to garner All-ACC hardware for the first time in his career. The Richmond, Va., native also ensured the Blue Devils a spot on the podium in the event for the second consecutive season after 2012 graduate Piotr Safronczyk won the title a year ago.
"That's been my goal since the beginning of the year," Knight said. "It's nice to finally get some hardware at ACCs - it feels really good. The breaststroke lane is a pretty tight-knit group. We just went out after it, like we've been training for. I think everything really worked out in terms of how we trained and pushed each other. And we all had a great time."
Knight was joined in the championship final by senior Jim Zuponeck, who also turned in a best time and NCAA 'B' cut at 53.88 to finish fifth. The breaststroke duo combined to score 30 points for Duke with their performances, while senior Ben Hwang also picked up points with a 10th-place showing. The sprint specialist touched in a personal-best 54.40 to also grab an NCAA 'B' cut in the event.
Also qualifying for the 100 breaststroke finals were senior Evan Schwartz, who took 19th in a personal-best 55.70, and junior Tyler Fleming, who notched a time of 56.91 to finish 22nd. Both swimmers clocked best times during the preliminary session, with Schwartz posting an NCAA 'B' cut at 55.28.
"We're super proud of our breaststrokers," Colella said. "For Hunter to get up on the podium tonight was extremely exciting. To move up from eighth last year to third was significant."
The opening event of Friday evening's session saw the 400 medley relay team of junior Steven Gasparini, Hunter Knight, freshman Sam Skinner and Hwang post a season-best time of 3:14.46 on their way to a seventh-place finish.
Two Blue Devils broke the four-minute barrier in the 400 IM for the first time in their respective careers Friday, as sophomore Tyler Toren (3:56.88) and Fleming (3:56.68) each collected new best times in the event preliminaries. Both swimmers advanced to the bonus final with Toren placing 20th at 3:58.14 and Fleming finishing just behind him in 21st with a 3:58.86 clocking.
Sophomore Clay Sanders advanced to the bonus final of the 100 butterfly, dropping time from his a personal-best swim in the morning session to finish 21st at 50.17. Senior Adam Flur also registered a best time in the 100 butterfly preliminaries, touching at 51.50.
The 200 freestyle featured a number of Duke swimmers in the bonus final, led by sophomore Stefan Knight, who earned an NCAA provisionally-qualifying mark with a personal-best 1:37.25 showing to win the heat and take 17th overall. Skinner tapped the wall at 1:38.69 in the C final to come in 21st, followed by sophomore Michael Donnalley in 21st (1:40.21), freshman Kevin Butz in 22nd (1:40.33) and senior Matt Carder in 23rd (1:41.68). In addition, Skinner (1:38.25), Donnalley (1:38.58), Butz (1:38.89) and Carder (1:40.24) all recorded new personal-bests in the event preliminaries.
After matching the program record in the 100 backstroke during the morning session with a personal-best 48.17 performance, Gasparini returned to the pool Friday evening to finish 15th overall at 48.92. Gasparini also set a school record Thursday in an 11th-place finish in the 200 IM.
With one day of competition remaining, the Duke men are in sixth place overall with 197 points. The program's divers totaled 43 points last week in the 3-meter springboard competition, led by junior Nick McCrory's first-place finish for his sixth career ACC diving title. Senior Jordan Long earned 11 points with an eighth-place showing, while freshman Deon Reid and sophomore Clay Pinckney also scored with their performances in the preliminary round.
"We couldn't be more proud of our guys and what they're doing here this weekend," Colella said. "Saturday morning is always a tough one, but they're ready to go. The momentum is in our favor and we'll see what we can do."
Virginia continues to lead the field with 528 points, followed by Virginia Tech in second place (400) and North Carolina in third (374).
The 2013 ACC Men's Swimming & Diving Championships conclude Saturday, March 2 with the preliminaries and finals of the 200 backstroke, 100 freestyle, 200 breaststroke and the 200 butterfly. The 1,650 freestyle will also be held beginning at 5 p.m. Saturday, with the fastest-seeded heat slated for the beginning of the finals session at 7 p.m. The meet will then wrap up with the 400 freestyle relay.
Team Standings Through Day Three
|2. Virginia Tech||400|
|3. North Carolina||374|
|4. Florida State||353|
|5. NC State||323.5|
|7. Georgia Tech||179.5|
|8. Boston College||93|