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Filipczak's return highlights Duke track and field's weekend at Camel City Invitational

This weekend’s meet in Winston-Salem, N.C., got most of the Duke squad back on the track after a one-weekend hiatus. But for one Blue Devil, the competition marked a comeback nearly two years in the making.

Michal Filipczak won the 800 meters at the two-day Camel City Invitational in his first race in 23 months Friday—one of six first-place finishes for Duke over the course of the weekend.

The redshirt junior took the lead from the starting gun and was two seconds ahead of the field at the halfway mark. Avery Martin of Virginia Military Institute closed the gap in the final 200 meters, but Filipczak held on to cross the line first in 1:52.73, claiming the win by just a hundredth of a second.

“In his very first race back, he led from the gun and just looked like the old Michal,” Duke director of track and field Norm Ogilvie said. “At the very end another runner came up on him, but he had enough guts to hold on for the win.”

The Niles, Ill., native had last raced at the 2014 Millrose Games, anchoring the winning 4-x-800-meter relay to stop the clock with a combined time of 7:30.06. But the remainder of Filipczak’s indoor season was cut short due to injury, and he was forced to watch his teammates from the sidelines for a season and a half.

“He had a stretch of tough problems with injuries, but he has worked hard to come all the way back,” Ogilvie said. “It’s truly great to have him back, and this race will give him the confidence that all that hard work to get back was worth it.”

The men’s distance group contributed to half of the Blue Devils' six total wins, with Stephen Shine and William Hague claiming the other two with top times in the mile and 5,000 meters, respectively.

Shine led a one-two-four Duke finish in the mile to kick off the meet Friday, as the junior and teammates Jordan Burton and Blake Udland formed the lead group for the first 800 meters. The trio nearly held on for the sweep, but Flagler’s Andrew Smith passed Udland on the home stretch. Shine crossed the line first in 4:11.65, Burton second in 4:13.54 and Udland fourth in 4:14.11—a tenth of a second behind Smith.

Hague used teammate William Rooney’s help to pace the first two miles of his five-kilometer race, running a split time of 9:21.80. Hague did not let up in the final third of the race, extending his lead on Evan Darm—a Campbell graduate running unattached—from seven-tenths of a second to nearly four seconds by the time he crossed the line in 14:45.97 for the win.

“He ran a beautiful 5K, certainly the best 5K he has run in years,” Ogilvie said. “It looks like he’s going to have a really good season. And [Rooney] did a perfect job pacing him, nice and even.”

The Blue Devils also racked up three wins in the field events, taking the top spot in both shot put events and the women’s pole vault.

Redshirt junior Urina Harrell won the women’s shot put by two and a half feet, throwing for a mark of 46 feet, 2 inches on her third attempt.

Redshirt senior Stephen Boals claimed the men’s win in more dramatic fashion, saving his best throw of the competition for his sixth and final attempt. Boals threw the shot put 59 feet, 2 inches, improving on his previous attempts by nearly a yard and surpassing the top mark set by Wake Forest’s John Maurins of 57 feet, 8 1/2 inches.

Megan Clark secured her second consecutive win in the women’s pole vault with a new season-best of 14 feet, 5 1/4 inches—good for the second-best jump in Division I so far this season behind Arkansas freshman Alexis Weeks’ 14 feet, 9 inches.

“This is the earliest in the season she has ever jumped that high,” Ogilvie said. “With her, we generally see a progression as the year goes by, so we think there are great things in store for her. She took some attempts at what would have been a personal best, and she actually had a really good attempt on her second go at it. When you’re at that stratosphere of height, you take a near-miss as a positive.”

Duke will look to build on its momentum from the Camel City Invitational next weekend, sending a select group of athletes to the Armory Collegiate Invitational in New York Feb. 5 and 6. 

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