KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – The Blue Devil men and women combined for five top-three finishes to kick off the Tennessee Invitational in strong fashion Thursday at the Volunteer’s Allan Jones Aquatic Center.
The women opened the three-day invitational in second place while the men wrapped up the first day of competition in fourth place.
“With the way we’ve been training, the expectations were to be able to come in and compete at a really high level, which I think we did today,” said head coach Dan Colella. This morning’s session was one of our better first morning sessions of a three-day meet in some time. A lot of folks that made it back tonight performed well … We’re really excited and proud of the energy they brought, both morning and evening.”
The women’s divers got the evening started, with junior Lizzie Fitzpatrick leading the way in a two-three-four finish on the one-meter springboard. Fitzpatrick improved upon her preliminaries score with an award of 267.20 in finals, while Mackenzie Willborn was third (263.55) and senior MaryEllen Targonski fourth (262.30).
“The divers performed really well today,” Colella said. “They scored a lot of points, and I know they’re looking forward to tomorrow and more competition.”
The Blue Devil swimmers followed suit with a pair of top-four finishes in the 200-yard freestyle relays. The quartet of sophomore Alyssa Marsh, senior Leah Goldman, junior Hunter Aitchison and junior Maddie Hess recorded the fifth-fastest mark in program history (1:30.03) in a third-place showing while sophomore Miles Williams, junior Sean Tate, senior Alex Peña and junior Max St. George took fourth (1:19.63).
Senior Verity Abel capitalized on an impressive preliminaries swim to take third overall Thursday evening in the women’s 500 freestyle finals. She lowered her career best in the process, tapping the wall at 4:43.53. Williams headlined a group of five Blue Devils in the same event on the men’s side, placing seventh in the championship final (4:27.61). Williams would return to the water later in the evening as Duke’s top finisher in the men’s 50 freestyle (20.13) after lowering his career best twice on the day.
Marsh was sixth (22.35) and Hess seventh (22.62) in the women’s 50 freestyle, with Marsh moving up to third on the Blue Devils’ all-time performance list with her finals performance. Duke received another top-three finish from Goldman in the women’s 200 individual medley, as the senior came in under the NCAA provisional standard (1:57.72) in a third-place finish. Senior Judd Howard also earned a spot in the 200 individual medley championship final, taking eighth (1:48.80).
Junior Evan Moretti (382.35) and freshman Teddy Zeng (373.65) combined for a two-three showing in the men’s three-meter diving competition, with both surpassing the NCAA Zones qualification standard in the process.
The Blue Devils rounded out the night with a pair of fifth-place finishes in the women’s and men’s 400 medley relays. Duke resumes competition in Knoxville Saturday, with swimming preliminaries slated for 10 a.m., diving preliminaries for 1 p.m., and finals for 6 p.m. Events on tap include the 400 individual medley, 100 butterfly, 200 freestyle, 100 breaststroke, 100 backstroke, men’s one-meter and women’s three-meter diving and the 200 medley and 800 freestyle relays.
Duke Women: 2nd/8 (266)
Duke Men: 4th/6 (181)
Top Duke Finishers by Event:
Women’s 200-Yard Freestyle Relay: Alyssa Marsh, Leah Goldman, Hunter Aitchison, Maddie Hess (3rd), 1:30.03
Men’s 200-Yard Freestyle Relay: Miles Williams, Sean Tate, Alex Peña, Max St. George (4th), 1:19.63