COLUMBUS, Ohio – Senior diver MaryEllen Targonski earned All-America honors for the second time in her career to close out the 2018 NCAA Championships Saturday at Ohio State’s McCorkle Aquatic Pavilion.
Behind All-America performances by Targonski and senior swimmer Leah Goldman – who raced to a top-16 finish in the 100-yard butterfly Friday – the Blue Devils finished tied for 42nd in the final team standings with three points. The finish marked the highest for the women’s program since 2011.
“For Leah, one of her individual goals was to be an All-American,” said head coach Dan Colella of Goldman’s performance Friday. “For her to be able to do that in her last individual swim as a member of the Duke program was quite an accomplishment and something that she has dreamt of doing for the last four years.”
A year after capturing honorable mention All-America recognition on the platform, Targonski was right back in the event consolation finals as a senior. The Gastonia, N.C., native got off to a strong start in preliminaries, receiving scores of 68.60 and 58.50 on each of her first two dives. She wrapped up the round in 12th place with an award of 254.50.
In Saturday afternoon’s consolation final, Targonski totaled 213.95 points – including 52.50 points on a forward 3.5 somersault in the second round – to come in eighth.
“It was really exciting that MaryEllen was able to come to this NCAA meet and be a second time All-American,” said head diving coach Nunzio Esposto. “She was really focused in prelims and that’s what sets it up for finals. She had a great prelim, was very consistent and I was glad she could finish her senior year with that 16th-place finish and All-America honors.”
Also a two-time ACC medalist on the platform, Targonski rounded out her collegiate career by joining Abby Johnston as the only repeat All-American divers in women’s program history.
Sophomore Jaina Gaudette also competed in the platform preliminaries, placing 22nd (239.20) in her NCAA Championships debut.
“Jaina was also focused and had a consistent performance,” Esposto said. “She wasn’t very far out of the hunt for the top 16 so I’m really excited for her. She was in a great place in terms of her confidence and her ability to compete today. I was glad for her and look forward to her next two years with us.”
Earlier on Saturday, Duke saw a program record go down in the 400 freestyle relay preliminaries, as junior Maddie Hess, sophomore Alyssa Marsh, senior Leah Goldman and junior Hunter Aitchison combined for a time of 3:15.44. That eclipsed the previous program record of 3:16.37, set by Hess, Goldman and former Blue Devils Maddie Rusch and Chelsea Ye in 2015.
The 3:15.44 mark placed the relay 17th in the country – one spot out of finals contention. Hess, junior Susan Hynes, Marsh and Goldman tied for 21st in the 200 medley relay (1:37.93) during Friday’s action in Columbus.
Senior captain Verity Abel rounded out an impressive career as one of the top distance swimmers in women’s program history by competing in the 1,650 freestyle Saturday afternoon. She clocked 16:12.53 in the third heat to finish 25th overall, up 13 spots from her mile performance at the 2016 NCAA Championships.
Duke was also represented in the 200 backstroke, as senior Lizzie Devitt notched a career-best time of 1:56.94 to rank third on the program’s all-time performance list and 46th in the NCAA field.
“Lizzie got us started really well,” Colella said. “From there we had the 200 butterfly swims. It was a little bittersweet but Isa gave a great effort finishing in 18th place. She put everything into that swim and swam it really well. Verity’s mile was a strategic, well swum mile. For our seniors to come in and be able to finish the way they performed here this week is a testament to the work they put in, not only this season, but the past four years.”
The Blue Devil women featured a program-record 12 swimmers and divers at the 2018 edition of the national meet. The group combined for eight top-25 finishes in individual and relay events.
"The thing that we’re most proud of is that we continue to advance as a program,” Colella said. “We got on the scoreboard again this year and to finish a little bit higher than last year is always a good thing. To come to the meet with the largest group that we’ve ever had here at NCAAs was fantastic. We’ll continue to build on this as we go forward.”
Two Blue Devil divers will be in action next week at the 2018 Men’s NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships in Minneapolis, Minn. Junior Evan Moretti qualified to compete in all three diving disciplines, while sophomore Nathaniel Hernandez punched his ticket to NCAAs on the one-meter springboard and on the platform. Action at Minnesota’s Jean K. Freeman Aquatic Center begins Wednesday and continues through Saturday.
Top Duke Finishers by Event:
1,650-Yard Freestyle: Verity Abel (25th), 16:12.53
200-Yard Backstroke: Lizzie Devitt (46th), 1:56.94
200-Yard Butterfly: Isabella Paez (T18th), 1:55.49
Platform Diving: MaryEllen Targonski (16th), 213.95
400-Yard Freestyle Relay: Maddie Hess, Alyssa Marsh, Leah Goldman, Hunter Aitchison (17th), 3:15.44