COLUMBIA, S.C. – The Duke men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams returned to competition Saturday for the first time since November, with the women suffering a 167-133 loss to host South Carolina and the men falling to the 25th-ranked Gamecocks by a score of 184-116. The Blue Devil women dropped to 3-2 on the season while the men slipped to 2-2 following the non-conference meet.
Freshman Maddie Rusch paced the Duke women with individual wins in the 100-yard freestyle and the 100 butterfly while senior Hunter Knight swept the breaststroke events and classmate Nick McCrory added first-place finishes in the 1-meter and 3-meter springboard diving events to lead the Blue Devil men.
“Facing an SEC, especially at their home pool, we knew they were going to be ready to go,” said head coach Dan Colella. “We’ve been training up a storm in the last several weeks and we know what we’re going to do in the final stretch will be terrific, but we weren’t running on all cylinders today … The energy and the approach was a little bit flat so we came up short. Everybody learned from this event though and we’ll be ready to go in the next competition.”
McCrory started off the afternoon with a win in the men’s 1-meter diving event, posting an NCAA Zone Championships qualifying score of 379.27. On the women’s side, sophomore Kendall McClenney also surpassed the Zones mark in a second-place finish (267.00).
Duke kept the momentum in the pool, sweeping the women’s and men’s 200 medley relays. The women’s team of sophomore Chelsea Ye, senior Christine Wixted, freshman Jessie Sutherland and senior Lauren Weaver turned in a time of 1:43.50 to edge the Gamecocks and the men’s squad of freshman Kaz Takabayashi, Knight, freshman Joe Maginnis and freshman James Peek followed with a 1:30.80 clocking.
The men’s 1,000 freestyle saw freshman Michael Miller record a season-best mark of 9:37.02 in a third-place finish while Ye (57.26) and Sutherland (57.72) were second and third, respectively, in the women’s 100 backstroke.
The Blue Devil swimmers notched their first individual wins in the 100 breaststroke, as Wixted won in 1:03.75 and Knight bested the field at 55.78. Knight went on to take the 200 breaststroke as well with a time of 2:02.93, winning both breaststroke events for the third time this season. Wixted came in second at the 200-yard distance (2:20.53), followed by graduate student Emily Barber in third (2:20.94).
Takabayashi picked up a second-place finish in the men’s 200 butterfly, touching at 1:51.26, before fellow rookie James Peek won the men’s 50 freestyle in 20.99. Weaver led the way in the same event on the women’s side, tapping the wall at 23.53, and Rusch was second in 23.73. Rusch and Weaver then flipped places at the 100-yard distance, with the freshman winning in 51.79 and the senior following in second at 52.04. Rusch earned her second win of the day in the women’s 100 butterfly (56.19), while sophomore Linsay Cooper came in second (56.75).
McCrory remained undefeated for the season with a first-place finish on the 3-meter board, collecting a Zones qualifying award of 435.38. Sophomore Deon Reid was second in the men’s competition, registering a personal-best score of 362.48 to also garner Zones qualification. In the women’s 3-meter event, McClenney placed second with 257.93 points on her list of six dives.
Freshman Bradley Cline took second in the men’s 200 IM (1:53.31) to conclude the individual events. The final races of the meet saw Weaver, senior Kelly Hagerty, sophomore Kathryn Eckhart and Rusch win the women’s 400 freestyle relay (3:29.14) and the men’s squad of junior Tyler Toren, sophomore Victor Chen, Takabayashi and Peek finish second behind South Carolina at 3:07.26.
“It’s always great when you start the meet by winning both the men’s and women’s medley relays,” Colella said. “Maddie Rusch did a great job and Hunter Knight is having an exceptional season … We just need to be a little bit more mentally ready and I think we will be [in the future].”
The Blue Devils resume ACC competition Friday, Jan. 24 when they host Virginia in dual meet action at Taishoff Aquatic Pavilion in Durham.