This year's women's track team has a new look to it. This look comes not from different uniforms or a team hairstyle, but rather from an influx of strong freshmen runners. Strong performances by these newer members have created a level of competitiveness rarely seen on Duke's track.
Already, records have been set-and the season's still in the early stages. With the indoor season close to completion but the entire outdoor season yet to go, the Blue Devils are just beginning. And the beginning has been good. From short events to long ones to hurdles to jumps, opponents and times have been falling.
Much of Duke's early strength and future promise lies with a strong returner-senior Kim Voyticky. She opened up the year earning the regional ECAC qualifying time in the 1000 meter run at the Father Diamond Invitational. Since then, she has held the school's top times in both the 1000 and the 800, qualifying for the ECACs in both events. Her times are school-record holders. Voyticky also contributes to a leg of the ECAC- qualifying distance medley relay.
While Voyticky's experience as a senior may lead her team to faster times, most of the Blue Devils' top performers are underclassmen. In the 55- and 60- meter hurdles, for example, the honors have been spread among a freshman, a sophomore and a junior. Freshman Jillian Schwartz set the mark in the 60 earlier this month with a time of 9.2 seconds, less than four tenths off of a school record. She is closely followed in this event by sophomore Amy Basille and in the 55 by junior Jeanie Minton.
The impressive hurdles performance is just the start.
That younger set is joined by top underclassmen in other events as well. Freshman Kristen Sbarra holds the season's top time in the 55-meter run and has notched the top three times in the 200 meters. Sbarra is followed with similar performances by junior Tara Cyre. In the 55-meter event, both Sbarra and Cyre hold top-five all-time Duke finishes. Cyre also shines for Duke in the 60 meters, where she has two of the top three finishes of the season.
Duke's talented newcomers have covered the middle distances as well. Freshman Jodi Flecker leads the team in both the 400 and 500 meters. The former earned her a second-place finish at the Lehigh Convert Classic.
Freshmen Megan Sullivan and Beth O'Donnell round out the freshman stronghold for the Blue Devils. In the mile, Sullivan has notched the top two times, just one hundredth of a second apart from each other. The better- 5:01.54-is exactly 1.5 seconds off the school record and ripe to fall before the end of the season.
O'Donnell has performed perhaps one of the most impressive freshman feats-she has already broken a school record. Her 3000 time is the best on the team by a large margin but is not even her most impressive. The 5000 time, which qualified O'Donnell for the ECAC meet, holds that honor. It beats the previous school record by over 15 seconds.
In the indoor season, Duke has only three meets to go. On Friday, it will compete in the ACC championships. Shortly thereafter, for those who qualify, will be the ECAC championships and the NCAA indoor championships. From there, the outdoor season begins, bringing many invitational and tournament meets, including the Blue Devils' own Duke Invitational in April.
Given the look shown by the younger Blue Devils this year, Duke should only be stronger and more competitive in the second half of the season. If the young strength is any indicator, these Blue Devils will be breaking records for years to come.
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