Duke Blue Devils Begin 2015-16 Season Saturday

DURHAM, N.C. – The Duke men’s and women’s swimming and diving programs kick off the 2015-16 campaign at home this weekend, welcoming ACC opponent Pittsburgh to Taishoff Aquatics Pavilion Saturday at 11 a.m.The dual meet represents the season opener for both programs.

Breast Cancer Awareness POD Meet Competition Begins This Weekend
The Blue Devils will be holding a breast cancer awareness event at Saturday’s season opener, with all proceeds benefitting the Duke Cancer Institute. Entry donations of $5 will be taken at the door and fans will also have the opportunity to purchase pink t-shirts for $15. This event is part of a larger competition involving teams from Boston College, Florida State, Kansas, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Tennessee, Texas A&M and UCLA as well. All nine teams will compete to see who can raise the most for their respective charity, with the winning squad earning an additional $9,000 for their organization. The competition will take place at meets nationwide throughout the month. For more information, click here.

A Look at Duke’s Returners
The Blue Devil men return all four members of their 200-yard medley relay, which automatically qualified for the NCAA Championship last spring. Senior David Armstrong and juniors Peter Kropp, James Peek and Kaz Takabayashi earned a podium finish in second at last year’s ACC meet and went on to reach the consolation final at NCAAs. Individually, Kropp also qualified for the national meet in the 100 and 200 breaststroke and was solid throughout the regular season. He broke the ACC record in the 100 breaststroke last fall with a 52.02 clocking and went on to break the ACC meet record as well with a 52.17 preliminaries mark.

The Duke women feature a pair of 2015 NCAA qualifiers in sophomores Leah Goldman and Isabella Paez. Both competed at the national meet as individuals last season, with Goldman swimming in the 100 freestyle, 100 butterfly and 200 IM and Paez in the 100 and 200 butterfly preliminaries. Both Blue Devils broke program records in the butterfly events as rookies, and Goldman also claimed All-ACC honors in the 100 butterfly with a third-place showing at the ACC Championship. Another freshman, diver MaryEllen Targonski, had a solid first season of collegiate competition, as she reached the 1-meter and platform finals at the NCAA Zone B Diving Championships and was a championship finalist on the platform at ACCs.

Blue Devils Add Talented Freshman Class
Head coach Dan Colella and the Duke coaching staff signed a standout group to the class of 2019. The Blue Devils welcomed seven female and five male swimmers and divers, as well as two female and three male divers, this year. Sophomore transfer Anna Quinn has also joined the program following a strong freshman campaign at UCLA.

Duke Announces Swimming & Diving Fall Signees

Esposto Bolsters Duke Diving Corps
Head diving coach Nunzio Esposto returns experience in seniors Jaimee Gundry and Kendall McClenney, junior Kirby Quinn and Targonski this fall, as all four divers posted NCAA Zone Championship qualifying marks last season. Under Esposto’s direction, they also combined for 61 points at the 2015 Women’s ACC Championship. The group will be bolstered by the arrival of freshmen Lizzie Fitzpatrick and Mackenzie Willborn and Lee Christensen, Evan Moretti and Josh Owsiany on the men’s side.

Scouting the Panthers
Pittsburgh travels to Durham for the season opener after holding the program’s Blue/Gold Intrasquad meet last weekend. The Panther women placed eighth and the men 10th at last year’s ACC Championships, and both programs sent representatives to the NCAA meets. Kaleigh Ritter garnered honorable mention All-America honors with a 15th-place finish in the 1,650 freestyle while on the men’s side, Dominic Giordano and Tony Galante competed for Pitt in the diving events. Giordano also captured the ACC title on the platform last season.

Last Year’s Meeting
The Blue Devils opened last year’s slate at Pittsburgh, where the women came away with a 162-138 victory and the men fell by a 170-128 score. Duke swimmers and divers collected individual wins in 13 events, led by Kropp’s first-place finishes in the 100 and 200 breaststroke and the 200 IM. Maddie Rusch swept the women’s sprint races and Paez took first in both butterfly events in her collegiate debut. The Blue Devils also won all four relays to round out a tightly-contested dual meet on the road.

Miller Joins Coaching Staff
Athena Miller
joined the Duke coaching staff as an assistant coach this summer, coming to Durham from Defiance College, a Division III institution in Ohio, where she was the head coach of the men’s and women’s teams from 2012-15. She took over at the helm of the Yellow Jackets program in its second year, recruiting student-athletes to help start up the teams.

Blue Devils Shine at Summer Nationals
A number of Duke swimmers and divers competed on the national stage this summer, including at the AT&T National Diving Championships in Orlando, Fla., and at the 2015 Phillips 66 National Swimming Championships in San Antonio. Willborn was selected to the United States’ roster for the upcoming 2015 Pan American Games following her performance at the national diving meet.

National Diving Championships Recap
Phillips 66 National Championships Recap

Program Well Represented at World Championships
Duke had a strong contingent at this summer’s FINA World Aquatic Championships in Kazan, Russia. Gundry represented South Africa in the women’s 10-meter platform diving preliminaries, while Paez swam for Venezuela in the 100-meter butterfly after also turning in a strong performance earlier in the summer at the Pan American Games. Esposto traveled to Kazan as a member of USA Diving’s coaching staff and was joined on Team USA by former Blue Devil diver Abby Johnston, who placed ninth in the women’s 3-meter synchronized and in the mixed gender synchronized 3-meter events. Former Duke swimmer and current volunteer assistant coach Ashley Twichell also competed for the U.S., finishing sixth in the 5K open water race and ninth at the 25K distance.

Swimming news courtesy of Duke Swimming & Diving.

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About Lauren Neidigh

Lauren Neidigh

Lauren Neidigh is a former NCAA swimmer at the University of Arizona and the University of Florida. While her college swimming career left a bit to be desired, her Snapchat chin selfies and hot takes on Twitter do not disappoint. She is now coaching for Loggerhead Aquatics in her hometown …

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