AUSTIN, Texas – It was a historic start to the NCAA Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships for Duke Thursday, as the Blue Devils featured a pair of honorable mention All-America performances and took down three program records in the process.
Through two days and seven events in Austin, Duke is 23rd in the team standings with 16 points – already the third-most points ever scored by a Blue Devil women’s squad at the NCAA Championships.
“This was a tremendous way to get the meet started,” said head coach Dan Colella. “Couldn’t be more proud of this group. Everybody is really fired up and looking forward to the coming days.”
Senior Maddie Hess, junior Alyssa Marsh, freshman Shayna Hollander and senior Hunter Aitchison got the action started in exhilarating fashion, becoming the first relay in school history to qualify for an event final and garner All-America recognition. The group was 11th in the 200-yard freestyle relay preliminaries (1:28.54) before dismantling the previous school record of 1:28.51 in Thursday evening’s consolation final with a 1:28.37 showing. Hess led off the relay in finals with a 22.14 split – good for a best time in the 50 freestyle – followed by Marsh (21.38), Hollander (22.45) and Aitchison (22.40).
The performance placed the group 12th in the country for honorable mention All-America honors.
“For these four young ladies to form the first relay in program history to make it back in finals was a big moment,” Colella said. “We had a lot of great splits, which absolutely set the tone.”
Marsh also earned a second swim in the 50 freestyle, advancing to an individual final at NCAAs for the first time in her career. After dipping below the 22-second mark for the first time to break her own school record during preliminaries (21.92), she checked in at 22.00 in the consolation final for 11th overall.
With her performance, Marsh became the seventh individual All-American in women’s program history.
“Alyssa Marsh making it back in the ‘B’ final and becoming an All-American tonight was huge,” Colella said. “Breaking through the 22-second barrier is such an exciting moment.”
The Blue Devils saw another school record fall Thursday morning in the 400 medley relay, as Hollander, sophomore Halle Morris, junior Kylie Jordan and freshman Melissa Pish clocked 3:34.36 to place 24th in the field.
The morning session also saw Hess record a career-best finish in the 50 freestyle in 22nd (22.25) and freshman Cabell Ann Whitlow make her NCAA debut in the 200 individual medley preliminaries, where she turned in a time of 1:58.67 to rank fourth on Duke’s all-time performance list.
Friday’s events at Texas’ Lee and Joe Jamail Texas Swimming Center include the 400 individual medley, 100 butterfly, 200 freestyle, 100 breaststroke, 100 backstroke, three-meter diving and the 200 medley relay. Preliminaries begin at 10 a.m. ET, followed by finals at 6 p.m. ET on ESPNU.
Top Duke Finishers by Event:
200-Yard Freestyle Relay: Maddie Hess, Alyssa Marsh, Shayna Hollander, Hunter Aitchison (12th), 1:28.37
200-Yard Individual Medley: Cabell Ann Whitlow (45th), 1:58.67
50-Yard Freestyle: Alyssa Marsh (11th), 22.00
One-Meter Diving: Maddi Pullinger (23rd), 277.70
400-Yard Medley Relay: Shayna Hollander, Halle Morris, Kylie Jordan, Melissa Pish (24th), 3:34.36