The Blue Devils’ season will kick into high gear this weekend as the team takes on its first of three elite midseason meets.
Duke will head to New York for the two-day Armory Collegiate Invitational, featuring some of the top-25 Division I squads and professional athletes from around the country. After narrowing down their roster to 19 men and 18 women based on the Carolina Cup Jan. 16 and the Virginia Tech Invitational Jan. 22 and 23, the Blue Devils will give an early look at their championship season team Friday and Saturday.
Duke will debut a pair of NCAA Championship-caliber relays Saturday on national television—the women’s 4-x-400 and the men’s distance medley relay.
“Everybody is stoked up; there’s no question about that,” said director of track and field Norm Ogilvie. “We are trying to put it all on the line, and it’s a chance to compete on national television. A chance to run against some of the best runners in the world would get anybody excited.”
The women’s sprint relay will consist of seniors Elizabeth Kerpon and Lauren Hansson, sophomore Madeline Kopp and standout freshman Maddy Price. The three returning legs of the relay wrote their names in the program’s record books last indoor season at this meet in 2014, posting a time of 3:39.97 in the 4-x-400 alongside Alexis Roper. Price—already fourth on the Blue Devil all-time list in the 200- and 300-meter individual races—hopes to round out the veteran group for another record-setting relay.
The men’s distance medley relay will be competing in the “elite” race against national teams from the United States, Kenya and Ireland, as well as collegiate squads from Columbia, Mississippi and Princeton.
Senior Nate McClafferty will lead off on the 1,200-meter leg, passing the baton for the 400 meters to sophomore Chaz Hawkins, Duke record holder in the 4-x-200 and 4-x-400 meter relays. The Blue Devils will entrust freshman Jordan Burton with the 800-meter leg, and senior Brian Shoepfer will bring it home in the final 1,600 meters.
“We think if we put it all together, we will have a very competitive team and could challenge our own school record,” Ogilvie said.
Cory Nanni Matt Marriott, Sean-Pat Oswald and Ryan McDermott set the current Duke record of 9:34.39 in 2010. McClafferty led off the third fastest relay in program history at the 2013 Alex Wilson Invitational, contributing to a combined time of 9:41.40 but will look to close the gap on the four-year-old record with this promising combination.
The Blue Devils will be represented in the field events by junior Megan Clark and Stephen Boals—both contenders for first-place marks this weekend.
Clark, Duke’s current recorder holder in the pole vault at 14 feet, 5 ¼ inches, won both the Carolina Cup and the Virginia Tech Invitational with marks a foot less than her personal record. Ogilvie is confident that the competition this weekend will push her to record one of the nation’s top vaults this season.
“She hasn’t had somebody to compete against and really push her, but that will change this weekend,” Ogilvie said.
On the men’s side, Boals hopes to make history for the Blue Devils this weekend. The current program record holder will compete in his signature event, the shot put.
“Nobody at Duke has ever thrown for 60 feet indoors, but that is certainly a possibility with him,” Ogilvie said. “He’s going to be gunning to put himself in the mix for a title this weekend.”
The redshirt junior threw for his personal best at the 2014 ACC Championships, earning silver with a mark of 59 feet, 4 ¼ inches.
The Blue Devils will aim to revise Duke’s all-time list in front of a national audience with events televised on NBC Sports Network from 4:40 to 6:30 p.m.
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