KNOXVILLE, TENN. – The Duke men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams opened action at the 2018 Tennessee Invitational Thursday with nine championship finalists, as well as one individual event victory and a school record. The Blue Devils also excelled in relay events to close out the first day of competition with the women second and the men third in the team standings.
“This morning we definitely had some great performances,” said head coach Dan Colella. “One of the real highlights was Alyssa Marsh breaking the school record in the 50 [freestyle]. We had a lot of folks that made it back at night, had another opportunity to swim and that’s what it’s all about. What’s exciting is we saw a lot of these people come back and improve on their performances this morning. For us as a team, I think we get better the next two days, just in terms of the events and our specialties.”
A strong morning of diving saw all 10 Blue Devils qualify for finals. Senior Mackenzie Willborn (318.00) brought home a victory in the women’s three-meter event while classmate Lizzie Fitzpatrick was third (298.35). Senior Evan Moretti headlined the men’s one-meter final with a second-place showing (374.25).
“It was really exciting that all the divers got to come back for finals and do their lists again this evening,” said head diving coach Nunzio Esposto. “Mackenzie had a really, really good final so it was satisfying to see her compete. This has been a consistent meet for her and to see her win the three-meter competition was great. On the men’s side, Evan Moretti was second this evening and he also had a really good performance. And Josh [Owsiany] made his Zone cut today and on the women’s side Jaina [Gaudette] had a three-meter best.”
The Duke swimmers kicked off the evening session with a pair of 200-yard freestyle relay performances that ranked among the top 10 in program history. Marsh, senior Maddie Hess, freshman Shayna Hollander and senior Hunter Aitchison posted the second-fastest mark all-time at 1:28.98 to finish second in the women’s field, while junior Miles Williams, senior Yusuke Legard, senior Max St. George and senior Sean Tate were third in the men’s event and 10th all-time at Duke (1:19.37). In addition, Williams’ leadoff split of 19.64 ranked him second on the all-time performance list.
Six swimmers represented the Blue Devils in the women’s 500 freestyle finals, with the group rewriting the program’s all-time top 10 in the event. The freshman trio of Melissa Pish (4:46.83), Lucy Callard (4:47.70) and Easop Lee (4:46.84) moved into the top 10 while coming in fifth, sixth and ninth, respectively. Another freshman, David Hallaron, was the top finisher on the men’s side (4:35.20).
“Very proud of our freshmen stepping up today,” Colella said. “This is their first big college invitational and to have some of them have some big breakthroughs – Lucy Callard in the 500 was absolutely terrific.”
Freshmen Cabell Ann Whitlow (2:01.24) and Zoe Lusk (2:01.48) reached the championship final in the women’s 200 individual medley, placing seventh and eighth, respectively. Senior Judd Howard followed suit in the men’s ‘A’ final, also taking eighth (1:51.01).
The women’s and men’s 50 freestyle finals featured 10 Blue Devils across the six races, with Marsh (22.34) and Williams (19.79) both earning top-five finishes. Marsh broke the women’s school record in preliminaries, stopping the clock at 22.12 to lower the benchmark set by Maddie Rusch (22.14).
In the final event Thursday evening, Duke’s top 400 medley relays both turned in times that ranked among the top three in program history. The group of Hess, Dean, junior Kylie Jordan and Marsh took second at 3:36.85 while St. George, Tate, Williams and Legard combined for a fourth-place finish at 3:10.91.
“Across the board, for us to have seven or eight women under 23 seconds on the 200 free relays today was really nice to see – kind of a testament to the depth of the women’s team,” Colella said. “Same with the men – some great performances there, especially the leadoff with Miles. And then closing out the evening with some really, really great splits from a variety of people from A, B, C relays has definitely got them excited for tomorrow’s individual stroke events.”
Friday’s events in Knoxville include the 200 medley relay, 400 individual medley, 100 butterfly, 200 freestyle, 100 breaststroke, 100 backstroke, men’s three-meter and women’s one-meter diving and the 800 freestyle relay. Preliminaries begin at 10 a.m., diving preliminaries at 1 p.m. and finals at 6 p.m., with live results available here.
Women: 1) Tennessee 424 2) Duke 309 3) Denver 154 4) Penn State 135 5) Penn 107 6) Carson-Newman 61
Men: 1) Tennessee 374 2) Penn 199 3) Duke 193 4) Denver 185 5) Penn State 180 6) Carson-Newman 59
Women’s 200-Yard Freestyle Relay: Alyssa Marsh, Maddie Hess, Shayna Hollander, Hunter Aitchison (2nd), 1:28.98
Men’s 200-Yard Freestyle Relay: Miles Williams, Yusuke Legard, Max St. George, Sean Tate (3rd), 1:19.37