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Jan. 11, 2013

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January 11, 2013

COLUMBIA, S.C. — The South Carolina swimming and diving team will be in action for the first time in 2013 on Saturday as it travels to Durham, N.C. for a dual meet with Duke.

The meet is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. at the Taishoff Aquatic Center. After watching his team go through a grueling winter workout, South Carolina head coach McGee Moody said the Gamecocks are ready to get back in the pool and see the results of their hard work.

“This is our big time of the year,” Moody said. “We don’t really have many days off and we usually double up. Pretty much every day over break was a two-a-day practice. Our kids usually go anywhere from 60,000-80,000 yards during a week over our break. We got a lot of good work in, and it was strictly focused on our training.”

The South Carolina men’s team heads into Saturday’s matchup with a 2-3 record, while the Carolina women are 1-4 on the season. The Gamecocks entered the winter break with some momentum after putting together a strong showing at the Virginia Tech Invitational in November, as both the men’s and women’s teams finished second.

During the three-day meet, South Carolina posted 12 NCAA B cuts and won 10 races in the championship finals. Junior Michael Flach led the way by turning in the nation’s fastest times at the time in the 500 freestyle (4:18.38) and the 200 butterfly (1:45.51) on his way to earning Counsilman Hunsaker National Swimmer of the Week and SEC Male Swimmer of the Week honors. Freshman Marwan El Kamash also posted NCAA B cuts in the 500 freestyle and the 1,650 freestyle. Junior Amanda Rutqvist recorded provisional qualifying times in the 100 and 200 breaststroke, while junior Rachael Schaffer turned in a B cut in the 400 IM.

Saturday marks the sixth consecutive season the Gamecocks and Duke have met. The Gamecock men hold a 9-3 advantage in the series, while the Carolina women are 5-2 all-time against the Blue Devils. The teams faced each other last season in Columbia, and the Gamecocks swept the meet, winning the men’s competition, 170-130, and the women’s meet, 170-127.

“Duke is a natural opponent for us because they are close by regionally, and it’s an easy trip for both teams,” Moody said. “They are very similar to us in terms of our competition level. Dan Colella, their head coach, has done an outstanding job there. Their program has gotten a lot better each year. They have some guys and girls that perform at the highest level pretty much every season. We are looking forward to going up there and seeing some of our folks race in some of these events.”

Duke’s men have a 1-3 record this season, while the women’s team is 2-3 overall. One of Duke’s biggest strengths this season has been its diving corps. The Blue Devils have two divers who won medals at the 2012 London Olympics. Junior Nick McCrory won bronze in the men’s 10-meter platform synchronized diving event, while senior Abby Johnston took home silver in the women’s three-meter synchro competition. Both McCrory and Johnston redshirted last season to train for the Olympics after each winning NCAA individual titles in 2011.

The Gamecocks have a solid group of divers to compete with McCrory and Johnston. Senior Rylan Ridenour, who has four wins this season, and sophomore Cole Miller, who finished second five times in the fall, are two solid options for the Gamecock men. On the women’s side, Johnston will go up against sophomore Patricia Kranz, who is blossoming into one of the top divers in the country. Kranz wrapped up the fall with six first-place finishes on the boards.

“As much as we rely on our divers, this is going to be their biggest meet of the year,” Moody said. “In certain cases, this is going to be the toughest competition they face all the way up to NCAAs. The Duke divers have come so far in the last 10 years. I know (South Carolina head diving coach) Todd (Sherritt) is excited about the challenge, and the divers are ready to step up and compete.”

In the pool, a strong group of returners will lead Duke. Christine Wixted (All-ACC performer in 2012), Lauren Weaver (school record holder 50 freestyle) and Cara Vogel (school record holder 200 backstroke) are three of the top performers for the Blue Devil women. On the men’s side, Alex Harmon returns as the school record holder in the 500, 1,000 and 1,650 freestyle and the 400 IM.

Live results for Saturday’s meet will be available here, while the meet will be streamed live here.