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McClafferty becomes first Blue Devil to break four-minute mile, Duke track excels at Iowa State Classic

Senior Nate McClafferty became the first Duke athlete to break four minutes in the indoor mile with his 3:59.95 this weekend.
Senior Nate McClafferty became the first Duke athlete to break four minutes in the indoor mile with his 3:59.95 this weekend.

The men’s distance group stole the spotlight from the women’s squad with two standout performances Friday and Saturday.

Seniors Shaun Thompson and Nate McClafferty gave Duke its fourth-straight meet with new program records at the Iowa State Classic in Ames, Iowa. Five Blue Devils representatives also competed at the Millrose Games in New York, N.Y., Saturday.

“The Iowa meet was a tremendous success,” director of track and field Norm Ogilvie said. “And in New York, we competed hard but just came up a little short.”

McClafferty became the first Duke athlete to break four minutes in the indoor mile. Bob Wheeler missed the mark in 1973, running 4:00.70 to set the former program record. McClafferty crossed the line in 3:59.95.

The senior had been making progress towards breaking the four minute barrier since arriving at Duke in 2011, but was forced to miss the second half of the 2014 cross country season due to illness. After losing 10 pounds of muscle, McClafferty was not in good shape to drop three seconds off of his career best. But he was not deterred.

“I was in New York, but we had a live video feed,” Ogilvie said. “His dedication and effort have been there for a number of years. It had been a huge goal for him when he got here and we talked about him making breaking four minutes as a senior. It was really exciting to watch his great accomplishment. It was really special.”

Another record fell for the men’s distance group Friday.

After redshirting the 2014 cross country season and competing in only the Carolina Cup so far this indoor season, Thompson made a statement Friday in the men’s 5,000 meters. The Baldwinsville, N.Y., native shattered Mike Moverman’s previous record of 14:02.63 by 15 seconds. Finishing seventh overall and fourth among collegiate competitors, Thompson posted a time of 13:47.22—the second fastest time by an ACC athlete this indoor season.

Thompson hopes to qualify for the NCAA Championships with that record-breaking time. The athletes with the top 16 performances in individual events from the beginning of indoor competition will be invited to compete in Fayetteville, Ark., in mid-March.

On the women’s side, the sprint quartet of Lauren Hansson, Madeline Price, Madeline Kopp and Elizabeth Kerpon dominated the field in the 4-x-400 meter relay Saturday. The Blue Devils had hoped strong competition would push them to lower their own school record in the event and better their chances of NCAA Championship selection, but Duke held an uncontested lead for all four legs. Finishing in 3:36.98—almost five seconds ahead of second-place North Dakota State—they posted the second-fastest time in program history and missed their record by two-tenths of a second.

In New York, the men’s 4-x-800 meter relay also came up short of their expectations Saturday. Hoping to defend Duke’s title as Millrose Games champions in the event, senior Henry Farley gave freshmen Kyle Francis and Jordan Burton the lead. But Army closed in the final leg, passing freshman Sean Kelly with 30 meters left in the final stretch to defeat the Blue Devils by just more than half a second.

“We had said that we were going to have to get a lead over Army and run really well to beat them,” Ogilvie said. “They are tough, and I told my guys not to underestimate them. We just didn’t get our anchor guy a big enough lead to pull it off. It was a very tough loss to swallow, but it will definitely motivate those three freshmen not to let that happen again.”

Sophomore Megan Clark was also disappointed at the Millrose Games Saturday, failing to clear her opening height of 13 feet, 5 ½ inches in the pole vault.

Clark will have an opportunity to bounce back before the ACC Championships in two weeks. Duke will head to Blacksburg, Va., again for the Virginia Tech Challenge Feb. 20-21, the final meet of the regular season.

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