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SWIM/DIVE: Divers, Relays Pace Blue Devils Thursday

Posted November 15, 2012

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— Impressive performances by Duke’s freshmen divers and second-place finishes in four relay events guided the men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams to a strong opening day of competition at a pair of fall invitationals. The program’s swimmers completed their first morning and evening sessions of the Tennessee Invitational, while the divers took to the platform on the first of three days at the Nike Cup Invitational.

Thursday afternoon’s platform diving finals were held at Duke’s Taishoff Aquatic Pavilion, with rookies Jaimee Gundry and Kendall McClenney taking part in the women’s competition and classmate Deon Reid representing the Duke men. Reid totaled 272.65 points on his list of six dives to finish third out of 13 divers, marking the highest finish so far in his collegiate career. The women’s platform final saw Gundry also take third with 205.75 points and McClenney earn a score of 173.60 to come in sixth.

“I thought they all did great today,” said head diving coach Drew Johansen. “Deon had a couple of dives that scored upwards of eight’s and nine’s. This was the first step towards what we’re going to do at conference with three of the ACC schools being here, so we got a good sense of where everybody’s at.”

In Knoxville, the Blue Devil women tallied 228 points through six events at the Volunteers’ Allan Jones Intercollegiate Aquatic Center, placing them second of four teams. Seventh-ranked Tennessee leads the field with 427 points, while Kentucky (193) and Colorado State (176) sit in third and fourth, respectively. On the men’s side, Duke trails the 13th-ranked Volunteers (404) and Kentucky (279) with a team score of 211 points following Thursday evening’s action.

Leading Duke in the opening finals event was the women’s 200-yard freestyle relay of junior Lauren Weaver, junior Christine Wixted, freshman Kathryn Eckhart and freshman Chelsea Ye, which took second behind the Volunteers with a mark of 1:33.32. The team of freshman Romain Decrop, senior Jim Zuponeck, freshman Sam Skinner and senior Adam Flur followed suit in the men’s 200 freestyle relay, coming in second at 1:22.20.

After posting the fourth-fastest time in the women’s 500 freestyle preliminaries Thursday morning, freshman Kiera Molloy finished fifth in the ‘A’ final, tapping the wall at 5:00.12 to improve upon her prelims time. Another rookie advanced to the ‘A’ final in the same event on the men’s side, as Kevin Butz came in eighth overall at 4:42.33.

Wixted grabbed her first NCAA provisional cut of the season in the 200 individual medley, breaking the two-minute mark in the ‘A’ final to cruise to a first-place finish. The Greenwood Village, Colo., native clocked 1:59.55 for her fastest time of the season while remaining undefeated in the event this year. The Duke-dominated ‘A’ final also saw sophomore Ali Horn (2:06.53), Molloy (2:06.98) and sophomore Katherine Plevka (2:07.67) place sixth, seventh and eighth, respectively. Junior Hunter Knight completed the 200 individual medley sweep for the Blue Devils, winning the men’s ‘A’ final with a season-best time of 1:51.24.

The men’s and women’s championship finals of the 50 freestyle each featured two Duke swimmers, with Flur finishing fourth (20.82) and Decrop fifth (20.85) in the men’s race, and Weaver coming in second (23.24) and Ye eighth (24.07) on the women’s side. Weaver surpassed the NCAA provisional standard in the event during the morning session, notching the best time of the field at 22.83.

In the final event of the evening, the men’s 400 medley relay of senior Ted Minturn, Hunter Knight, Skinner and Flur recorded a time of 3:21.57 in a second-place finish, while Eckhart, Plevka, freshman Linsay Cooper and junior Kelly Hagerty combined for a mark of 3:44.89 to also come in second.

“It was an exciting first day and we had some really great swims across the board, including some breakout swims,” said head coach Dan Colella. “Lauren Weaver going 22.8 this morning in prelims was a great mid-season performance. Christine Wixted went 1:59.5 tonight in the 200 IM and Hunter Knight had a great 200 IM to win that event, and then came back to have a really great leg on the 400 medley relay. Those are just a couple of the highlights. We’re really pleased with today’s competition and we’re looking forward to tomorrow.”

The Tennessee Invitational continues Friday, Nov. 16 with the men’s and women’s 400 individual medley, 100 butterfly, 200 freestyle, 100 breaststroke and 100 backstroke events, as well as the 200 medley and 800 freestyle relays. Preliminaries begin at 10 a.m., followed by finals Friday evening at 6 p.m. Live results (http://bit.ly/W6EgCk) and a live video stream (http://bit.ly/Zvbyv1) will be available for both sessions.

The Nike Cup Invitational also continues Friday with the preliminaries and finals of the women’s 1-meter and men’s 3-meter diving events. The preliminaries of the women’s 1-meter competition is slated to begin at 11 a.m. at North Carolina’s Koury Natatorium, followed by the men’s 3-meter preliminaries at 1 p.m. Diving finals events are scheduled for 6:45 p.m. and 7:45 p.m. Friday evening. Live results will be available at http://bit.ly/Qe2VU9.

Fans can also follow the Blue Devils on Twitter (@Duke_SWIM_DIVE) for updates on both invitationals.

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