The men’s and women’s track and field teams have been steadily building their programs over the past few years. Although Duke will not compete for many team titles this spring, a number of individuals will contend at the national level.
“This should be our strongest team ever,” head coach Norm Ogilvie said. “We have high expectations, thanks to the return of some veterans, especially in women’s distance, coupled with a great recruiting class.”
The women’s distance team will lead the program, relying on its experience and depth displayed during a fall run to second-place at the NCAA Cross Country Championship. All-American Shannon Rowbury has shown that she is in top shape during the indoor season, posting nationally competitive times of 4:39.09 and 2:09.73 in the mile and 800-meter races, respectively. Rowbury’s mile time toppled the Duke record, and she will look to translate this indoor success to the outdoor season’s 1500-meter race.
Fellow junior Clara Horowitz, an All-American at 5,000-meters, will continue to race in the outdoor meet’s second-longest distance. The women’s distance team is so deep that “a half-dozen could be All-Americans,” Ogilvie said after six went to NCAAs last spring.
Sophomore Debra Vento returns as one of the nation’s best high jumpers and has already topped her performances from last year, which took her to the NCAA Indoor Championships. Vento, however, will have stiff competition at the ACC Championships again this year against defending NCAA Champion Chaunte Howard from Georgia Tech. Vento’s top leap this year of 5-11.5 is more than a six inches shorter than Howard’s best jump from last season.
Sophomore thrower Kelly Reynolds has already shown significant improvement this year in the shot put, throwing 48-4.75, three feet more than her best last year. Last year Reynolds was the first-ever women’s Blue Devil thrower to place in the ACC Championships.
“The women’s team will have more depth than ever before,” Ogilvie said.
The men’s team returns several of its top runners and has added a talented freshmen class to add to the mix.
Perhaps the Blue Devil’s most important addition this year is freshman jumper Jade Ellis. Ellis’ leg strength conditioning and work on his form has already produced results. He broke the Duke record in the triple jump and placed fourth in the Armory Invitational, which featured the nation’s top competitors.
“Ellis has been one of the biggest surprises,” Ogilvie said. “He will definitely be one of the top competitors.”
Senior Nick Schneider, will likely earn his eighth and ninth All-East honors in the coming months, Ogilvie said. This spring, Schneider will run the 1500-meter and 5000-meter distances.
The Blue Devils also return their top-two 10,000 meter runners, Keith Kreiger and Michael Hatch. Kreiger, who was the nation’s top high school 10k runner three years ago, came on strong late last year, posting a second-place finish at the eastern IC4A Championships.
Freshman Chris Spooner has already turned heads in the indoor season, anchoring the distance medley relay to two first-place finishes. Spooner has also been the team’s top miler thus far and may assume the role of the team’s 1500-meter runner to allow Schneider to compete in the 5000-meter race more often.
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