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History made in Pennsylvania

Senior Sean-Pat Oswald, left, led Duke’s first-ever 4x800-winning team at the Penn Relays over the weekend.
Senior Sean-Pat Oswald, left, led Duke’s first-ever 4x800-winning team at the Penn Relays over the weekend.

Duke’s performance at the Penn Relays this past weekend was nothing short of historic.

When the meet ended, the Blue Devils walked away with two championships and six new school records. While this type of performance has become typical of the track and field program, this weekend was unique in many ways. Not only did the men’s 4x800 team of seniors Sean-Pat Oswald, Cory Nanni, junior Stephen Clark, and sophomore Curtis Beach step up to win the program’s first-ever college division win in the event in 7:25.20, but as a whole, all Duke athletes competing in Championship of America events, which are limited to a select number of the nation’s best programs, finished in the top ten.

The men’s school record-breaking win for the program, had, earlier in the day, been matched perfectly on the women’s side, as seniors Kate Van Buskirk and Devotia Moore, alongside juniors Esther Vermeer and Cydney Ross, crossed the finish line in 8:25.95. As a result, associate head coach Kevin Jermyn was able to take home his second Penn Relays Carnival Wheel, given to winners of Championship events.

And while the Duke athletes may not have taken home titles in any other events, according to director of track and field Norm Ogilvie, their performances are still something to be proud of.

“It’s a big honor even to be selected to compete [in Championship of America events],” Ogilvie said. “We broke several school records and we did it with some gutsy performances.”

Many of these performances occurred in the field, as Duke athletes tore down old school records to earn top-ten finishes. On the men’s side, sophomore Austin Gamble broke his senior teammate Mike Schallmo’s school record in the discus with his throw of 55.31 meters on Friday. In the men’s javelin, senior John Austin, earned a second-place finish with his throw of 71.31 meters.

Several other Blue Devil field athletes turned in top-ten finishes as well. Sophomore Andrea Hopkins, like her counterpart on the men’s side, rose to second place in the javelin with her throw of 46.64 meters. In the high jump on Saturday, freshman Tanner Anderson tied University of Louisville’s Mike Edwards for tenth, while on the previous day, his classmate Michael Krone succeeded in tying Anderson’s record of 2.12 meters with his second-place finish in the college division high jump. Michelle Anumba, along with freshman Erica Brand, had stellar performances in Championship events as well, placing ninth in the shot put and sixth in the discus, respectively.

Other running events also saw the Blue Devils finish in top-ten spots. The women’s distance medley relay team secured a fourth-place finish with a time of 11:02.01, shattering yet another school record. According to Ogilvie, this finish represents another “major accomplishment” for the program.

In fact, in the only event where the Duke athletes placed lower than expected, the men’s 4x1 mile relay, they still managed to tie their placement from the previous year, as seniors Josh Lund, Cory Nanni, and Ryan McDermott, as well as redshirt freshman Domenick DeMatteo, crossed the finish line in 16:39.49 to take seventh. The Duke men had headed into the event with a record-high seeding of third and had hoped to finally break the school record set in 1972. While Lund and his team did fall short of their goal, they still managed to hold on to their three-year streak of top-ten finishes.

“If anything, as a coach I probably underestimated the physical and emotional wear and tear of ACC’s.” Ogilvie said. “For example, Josh Lund ran the fastest race of his life at ACC’s and its hard to come back from a race like that.”

For the rest of the team, though, the aftereffects of the ACC Championships did not seem to be an issue as they came together to create history for the rapidly-improving track and field program.

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