UNC Women Rally Past Duke on Final Relay With Rivalry Meet At Stake

by Riley Overend 8

January 27th, 2024 ACC, College, News, Previews & Recaps

North Carolina vs. Duke

  • Jan. 26, 2024
  • Durham, North Carolina
  • SCY (25 yards)
  • Results on MeetMobile: “
  • Team scores
    • Men: North Carolina 219, Duke 80
    • Women: No. 15 North Carolina 152.5, No. 18 Duke 147.5

Elizabeth Sowards erased a half-second deficit on the final leg of North Carolina’s 400-yard freestyle relay, lifting the Tar Heel women to a tight victory over Duke on Friday night, 152.5-147.5, thanks to a thrilling final race of the meet.

UNC’s 400 free relay team of junior Greer Pattison, fifth-year Delaney Carlton, sophomore Madeline Smith, and Sowards reached the wall in total time of 3:19.80, just .67 seconds ahead of the Blue Devils (3:20.47). It was the Tar Heels’ fourth consecutive win in the rivalry series, and the second time in the last three years the showdown has come down to the final relay.

“We knew the women’s meet would be close and might come down to the last relay,” UNC head coach Mark Gangloff said. “We knew we had a team that could come here and beat them, but you have to execute, and they did that. I’m super proud of them.

“I’m not sure that quartet has ever been up in a relay, but they’ve all had a hot hand lately, and we let it ride,” Gangloff added. “I’m extremely happy for Elizabeth. She’s such a hard worker and has been a great leader for our team.”

Individually, Pattison earned runner-up finishes in the 100 back (54.23) and 100 free (50.78). Carlton triumphed in the 100 free (50.61) after placing 2nd in the 50 free (23.18). Madeline Smith earned a pair of podium finishes in the 200 free (1:49.56, 2nd place) and 100 free (50.94, 3rd place while Sowards, a junior, also placed 3rd in the 100 fly (54.35) and 4th in the 100 back (54.44).

Pattison and Carlton teamed up with junior Skyler Smith and senior Ellie VanNote to secure a 200 medley relay win that got the Tar Heels started on the right foot. VanNote also picked up a victory in the 100 fly (53.51) after coming up short in the 200 fly (1:59.86) behind Duke sophomore Martina Peroni (1:55.97).

UNC sophomore Lily Reader led the Tar Heels in the distance events, dominating the 1000 free (9:59.17) by more than seven seconds before taking 2nd in the 500 free (4:52.28) just .02 seconds shy of Duke junior Yi Xuan Chang (4:52.26). Impressively, Chang pulled off the win despite trailing behind Reader by .61 seconds with 50 yards remaining.

On the boards, UNC senior Aranza Vazquez swept the diving events for fifth time in six meets this season, scoring 349.95 on the 1-meter and 368.78 on the 3-meter. The Mexican Olympian captured NCAA crowns in both springboard events last year.

The Blue Devils got multiple individual wins out of both sophomore Kaelyn Gridley (100 breast – 1:00.31, 200 breast – 2:13.03) and freshman Ali Pfaff (100 back – 53.26, 200 back – 1:55.91) in their defeat. Gridley had to hold off senior teammate Sarah Foley in the 200 breast, outdueling her by less than half a second. Meanwhile, Pfaff continued a stellar rookie campaign that has seen her climb the NCAA rankings to 15th in the 200 back (season-best 1:53.48) and 24th in the 100 back (52.12).

Foley did her typical damage with a victory in the 200 IM (1:59.61) along with a runner-up finish in the 200 breast (2:13.47). Sophomore Tatum Wall took the 50 free title for the Blue Devils in 23.07, within a second of her personal-best 22.32 from November that ranks 45th in the NCAA this season.

Men’s Recap

The North Carolina men won 14 of 16 events against Duke in their 219-80 rout — their most lopsided victory over the Blue Devils since 2001.

The Tar Heels set the tone with a 1st-place finish in the 200 medley relay (1:28.11) courtesy of junior Walker Davis (21.96 backstroke), senior Kendall Ewing (25.02 breaststroke), senior Boyd Poelke (21.34), and senior Patrick Hussey (19.79). Davis (100 back – 48.27), Poelke (100 fly – 47.83), and Hussey (200 fly – 1:48.48) also claimed individual crowns for UNC.

A pair of Tar Heels freshmen stepped up with multiple individual victories, putting the future on full display for UNC. Ben Delmar swept the breaststroke events (54.29/1:56.90) while classmate Keith Williams took both distance freestyle titles (4:38.96/9:34.86). Louis Dramm (200 free – 1:38.58), Tyler Roberton (50 free – 20.49), Matthew Van Deusen (100 free – 44.92), and Colin Whelehan (200 back – 1:47.28) also topped the podium for the Tar Heels.

“I’m really proud of our men’s team for taking control of the meet from the get-go,” Gangloff said. “We put some people in different events, and they stepped up, and that’s exactly what I’ve asked them to be all semester – a team of great racers.”

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ACC fan
4 months ago

Prediction: Duke wins by a lot next year

Heels Swim Fan
4 months ago

It’s actually four straight wins over Duke for the women
2021: 190-110
2022: 154-146 (came down to the 4FR relay)
2024: 152.5-147.5 (came down to the 4FR relay)

Heels Swim Fan
4 months ago

It’s actually four straight wins over Duke for the women. In fairness, UNC incorrectly reported it as 3 straight, but here are the scores:
2021: 190-110
2022: 154-146 (came down to the 4FR relay)
2023: 156-144
2024: 152.5-147.5 (came down to the 4FR relay)

4 months ago

Go Heels!

Not tyler
4 months ago

Tyler Roberton**

Also not tyler
Reply to  Not tyler
4 months ago

Who could this commenter possibly be??

Also also not Tyler
Reply to  Also not tyler
4 months ago

I heard he was the Great White Buffalo

Also also also not Tyler
Reply to  Also also not Tyler
4 months ago

lol Tyler’s coach should pull him out of the freestyle relays for NCAA’s 🤣🤣🤣

About Riley Overend

Riley is an associate editor interested in the stories taking place outside of the pool just as much as the drama between the lane lines. A 2019 graduate of Boston College, he arrived at SwimSwam in April of 2022 after three years as a sports reporter and sports editor at newspapers …

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