By David Borne | Staff Writer
For the second season in a row, the Duquesne swimming team walked out of the Atlantic 10 Swimming & Diving Championships in second place, finishing the four-day meet with a program record of 498.5 points. The second-place finish ties a program best.
Duquesne started off the tournament strong, breaking school records in both events the team participated in on the first day of competition. The team of juniors Abby Watson, Kayla Owens, Michelle Heim and sophomore Kristen McKnight finished the 200-yard medley relay in first place with a time of 1:41.23. The 800-yard freestyle relay team of junior Lexi Santer, freshmen Lauren Devorace and Carson Gross and sophomore Sydnee Karam (7:19.43) secured a second-place finish.
Day two saw continued success for the Dukes. The second day was highlighted by Santer’s third-place finish with a time of 2:01.02 in the 200 yard IM, breaking yet another school record. Sophomore Abigail Stauffer (2:01.32) finished right behind her.
The Red & Blue sat in first place at the end of the second day; however, the team’s final standing was heavily impacted by the lack of a diving program. Every other team in the A-10 has a diving team, but Duquesne has been forced to give up the opportunity to grab key points in those events, and that has impacted its ability to achieve its ultimate goal. The university has announced that it will bring back the diving program next season.
“It was really frustrating this year because we walked out of there winning the swimming part of the meet,” head coach Dave Sheets said. “Over the course of 16 years that I’ve been here, we’ve just kind of become accustomed to it. But we’ve never been in a position to win it before, and I think this year walking out of there and knowing what we accomplished was a little bittersweet. Knowing that now we’ve got diving and we’re going to be on the same playing field as everybody else, we don’t have any opportunity to make excuses anymore.”
Santer continued to shine on the third day of competition. She finished third in the 400-yard individual medley (4:17.74). Devorace (1:50.14) placed fifth in the 2oo-yard freestyle.
On the competition’s fourth and final day, a couple of underclassmen led the Dukes. Freshman Summer Svitavsky broke a program record in the 1,650-yard Freestyle with a time of 16:59.95. Abigail Stauffer also broke a Duquesne record with her third-place finish in the 200-yard breaststroke. Unfortunately, at the end of day, Duquesne fell 71.5 points shy of Richmond on the scoreboard and ended in second with 498.5 points compared to the Spiders’ 570.
Though Watson was disappointed that her team couldn’t come out of the tournament as champions, she is more than proud of the way her and her teammates performed this season.
“This team is a really special one,” Watson said. “The reason that we had such success is because it truly was a complete team effort. Through every event we had individuals going best times, making it back to finals, and moving up places. If we didn’t have this whole team effort, there is no way we would have done as well as we did. I am really excited for next year to see how we do.”
Five seniors from this season’s roster will be unable to return next season, but the rest of the Dukes squad will be back for more next season. With the addition of a diving team, Duquesne will finally be on a level playing field with its competition.
“The future looks very bright for our program,” Sheets said. “The majority of our points were scored by our underclassmen. That just signifies that our program is headed in the right direction. A lot of our top point scorers were in the freshman class and sophomore class, so it’s very exciting for me to see the potential that we have as we think about 2018 and beyond.”