GREENSBORO, N.C. – The Blue Devil men featured seven school record-breaking swims to close out the 2018 ACC Championships in exciting fashion Saturday at the Greensboro Aquatic Center. On the strength of an impressive final evening, Duke rounded out the four-day conference meet seventh in the team standings with 621 points – up one spot and 14 points from its performance a year ago.
During the 2018 edition of the men’s conference championships, the Blue Devils broke program records in eight events – including in six individual events and two relays. Junior Judd Howard reached individual event championship finals in the 100 and 200-yard breaststroke while senior Matt Johnson, junior Max St. George and sophomore Miles Williams all turned in record-breaking swims in multiple events. In addition, the Duke men received strong support from its divers, who totaled 212 points across the three disciplines.
Johnson wrapped up his final ACC meet in style late Saturday afternoon, breaking his own school records in the 1,000 and 1,650-yard freestyle. He finished 10th in the conference in the mile with a time of 15:03.80 after registering a 1,000-yard split of 9:07.14. Duke received additional scoring in the event behind a 24th-place showing by junior Riley Hickman, who went 15:21.22 to come in under the NCAA provisional standard.
“Today we saw a continuation of the outstanding performances we’ve had all weekend,” said head coach Dan Colella. “Saturday morning is always a challenging session. The guys really swam tough this morning and we got a number of them back tonight. This afternoon our milers did an outstanding job. In particular, Matt Johnson breaking two school records in the 1,000 and 1,650 free was great way to get the evening session started.”
A pair of freshmen – Spencer LaFata and Zach Washart – also competed in the mile, with both moving up the program’s all-time performance list with their swims. LaFata was 25th at 15:24.67, good for fifth on the all-time top 10, while Washart ranked seventh on the chart and placed 29th overall at 15:30.53.
The Blue Devils saw another school record fall in the 200 backstroke, as St. George raced to the wall in 1:43.73 to reset his own mark. The performance placed St. George seventh in the consolation final and 15th overall. Freshman Nathaniel Hartley also advanced to the event finals, garnering an NCAA ‘B’ cut at 1:46.22 to take seventh in the bonus final. That time ranked Hartley sixth on the all-time top 10.
Williams and junior Yusuke Legard both turned in record-breaking performances in the 100 freestyle. Saturday morning’s session saw the duo tie for 13th at 43.33, shattering Legard’s previous mark of 43.44 set last season. Williams went on to take down the record again in the event consolation final, stopping the clock at 43.15 for 10th place. Legard came in 16th at 43.63.
One day after representing Duke in the 100 breaststroke championship final, Howard was back in an ‘A’ final Saturday evening. He earned a spot in the 200 breaststroke championship final with a career-best 1:55.31 showing in preliminaries and took eighth during finals at 1:55.19 – good for the second-fastest time in school history.
“We’re just incredibly excited for Judd,” Colella said. “A lot of hard work went into his performances this weekend. For him to come back and make two ‘A’ finals and a ‘B’ final is a huge step. He’s already talking about next year. Seeing those kinds of results only motivates him and the rest of the guys on the team to enjoy the weekend and successes but also get ready to work even harder next year.”
After competing in the mile during the afternoon, LaFata returned to the water later in the evening for the 200 butterfly bonus final. He finished 23rd in the conference at 1:49.39. In addition, LaFata’s preliminaries mark of 1:48.70 ranked him seventh on the Blue Devils’ all-time top 10.
In the final event of the meet, Legard, Williams, St. George and junior Sean Tate teamed up for a sixth-place finish in the 400 freestyle relay. The group broke the previous school record, set in 2011, with a time of 2:53.99.
“That 400 free relay record has been up on the board for the eight years so it was one the guys really wanted to take down,” Colella said. “It was just a great team effort to go 2:53.9 tonight and a terrific way to finish up our weekend of competition.”
Saturday’s scoring also included results from men’s platform diving, held last Saturday in Greensboro. Sophomore Nathaniel Hernandez represented Duke in the event final, his second finals appearance of the meet. The Southlake, Texas native totaled 310.60 on his finals list to come in sixth.
NC State claimed its fourth consecutive ACC title with 1,457 points, followed by Louisville in second (1170.5) and Virginia in third (983.5). Notre Dame, Florida State, Virginia Tech and Duke rounded out the top seven.
1) NC State 1457 2) Louisville 1170.5 3) Virginia 983.5 4) Notre Dame 941 5) Florida State 828.5 6) Virginia Tech 288.5 7) Duke 621 8) North Carolina 568 9) Georgia Tech 504 10) Pitt 324 11) Boston College 137 12) Miami 94
Top Duke Finishers by Event:
Men’s 1,650-Yard Freestyle: Matt Johnson (10th), 15:03.80
Men’s 200-Yard Backstroke: Max St. George (15th), 1:43.73
Men’s 100-Yard Freestyle: Miles Williams (10th), 43.15
Men’s 200-Yard Breaststroke: Judd Howard (8th), 1:55.19
Men’s 200-Yard Butterfly: Spencer LaFata (23rd), 1:49.39
Men’s 400-Yard Freestyle Relay: Yusuke Legard, Miles Williams, Max St. George, Sean Tate (6th), 2:53.99
Men’s Platform Diving: Nathaniel Hernandez (6th), 310.60