Last year, Megan Clark claimed the silver medal in the pole vault at the NCAA indoor championships with a school record of 14 feet, 9 inches, and wasted no time in setting new goals—qualifying for the NCAA outdoor championships for the first time and vaulting 15 feet, 1 inch, or 4.60 meters. The Fort Benning, Ga., native checked the first off her list by qualifying with just one jump for the 2015 outdoor national championships in Eugene, Ore., but “Project Four-Sixty” was incomplete—until Saturday.
Clark won the women’s pole vault at the Armory Collegiate Invitational in New York with a new school and conference record of 15 feet, 1 inch—good for the top mark in the nation so far this season—highlighting the No. 17 Blue Devil women’s 72-point, first-place team finish. Duke was initially awarded second place, but stat corrections issued Monday gave the Blue Devils the victory.
Leaving the rest of the field behind at 13 feet, 5 1/4 inches, Clark and Miami redshirt junior Alysha Newman battled for the victory as the bar inched past both vaulters’ season-bests, then their own school records.
“It’s a different level of competition when there is someone actively trying to beat you. It’s not like other meets, where you hope to win by two feet and have to keep jumping after everyone is out,” Clark said. “Having Alysha there helped me to PR. We have been jumping together since the Pan American Games after my freshman year in 2013. Jumping with your friend is really helpful, and we were cheering each other on the whole time.”
Clark had recorded a season-best of 14 feet, 5 1/4 inches at the Camel City Invitational Jan. 29, and Newman’s best jump of 2015 at the Nittany Lion Challenge Jan. 16 was just two inches shy of her school record of 14 feet, 3 1/4 inches set in 2014. The pair’s final clearances Saturday would equal the gold and silver medal-winning marks from the 2015 NCAA indoor championships.
Newman earned a new personal- and program-best with her vault of 14 feet, 9 inches, but Clark did not stop there. Sailing over the bar set at 15 feet, 1 inch—the same mark set by Sandi Morris of Arkansas for the 2015 national indoor title—the Blue Devil senior earned her spot in the elite 15-foot club and collected the Armory Invitational award for women’s outstanding collegian.
“She’s obviously one of the top vaulters in the country,” Duke director of track and field Norm Ogilvie said. “She looked really great. All of her early heights she was clearing with authority and beautifully. [Associate head coach Shaun] Wilbourn has done a great job with her, and she’s also a great, talented athlete who has worked hard to be the best.”
For Clark, the trip to the Armory was a trip home. She had lived in New York until her senior year of high school and had competed at this venue throughout her early high school career.
“The Armory is my home track,” Clark said. “My club coach could be there, my old teammates and a lot of my old teachers. There’s something very familiar and comforting at Armory that allows for me to jump higher. I cleared 13 feet for the first time there in high school, so it was really cool to take the same picture then with my club coach that I did with my college coach [Saturday].”
Clark and two other senior women—Anima Banks and Teddi Maslowski—earned all three of Duke’s individual wins. Maslowski also contributed to the 4-x-200-meter relay win.
Banks bested the field in the women’s 800 meters, clocking a time of 2:06.48. The Mamaroneck, N.Y., native trailed Hampton’s Ce’aira Brown after the first 400 meters, but kicked it into gear in the back half of the race to edge past Brown at the finish.
Maslowski earned the Blue Devils first win of the meet with the top mark in Friday’s long jump. Landing at 20 feet, 1 1/2 inches, she was the only competitor to clear 20 feet.
The redshirt senior also led off the 4-x-200 meter relay.
Duke trailed South Carolina by just a tenth of a second after Maslowski and Madeline Kopp’s first two legs, but freshman India Lowe gave the Blue Devils the lead. Sophomore Maddy Price brought home the win, crossing the line in 1:37.51.
Kopp broke her own school record in the women’s 500-meter dash Friday, competing in the elite invitational heat and finishing third overall and second in the collegiate standings with a time of 1:11.87.
The women suffered one setback in a weekend full of highlights. Freshman standout Sydnei Murphy landed second on Duke’s all-time performers list in her collegiate triple jump debut Saturday with a mark of 39 feet, 5 inches but suffered a knee injury on a later attempt.
“She has looked fantastic so far her freshman year,” Ogilvie said. “We don’t know how bad the injury is. She went to the medical center [Saturday], and they ruled out a knee dislocation, but we will have her checked out further at Duke.”
On the men’s side, the distance harriers shined for the Blue Devils, earning more than half of the Duke men’s 49 total points in their fifth-place overall finish.
Freshman Stephen Garrett and senior Blake Udland put up the first points for the men’s track contingent with third- and fourth-place finishes in the 5,000 meters, crossing the line in 14:32.74 and 14:33.67. Sophomore Kyle Francis and junior Alec Kunzweiler took fourth and seventh in the 1,000 meters, finishing less than a second apart in 2:28.19 and 2:28.89, respectively.
The men’s distance medley relay earned runner-up honors with a 9:56.81 showing. Sean Kelly led off for the first 1,200 meters, passing the baton to Matthew Rodio for the next 400 meters. Michal Filipczak ran the fastest 800-meter leg of the field with a split of 1:51.71 before Jordan Burton finished the final mile.
Filipczak produced the fastest split of the race again in the 4-x-800-meter relay, finishing the third leg in 1:51.29. The redshirt junior, Francis, Burton and Dylan Murphy finished second in a combined time of 7:34.51.
The sprinters also added to the highlight reel with a new school record in the men’s 4-x-200 meter relay. Brett Bofinger, Robert Rohner, Rodio and Chaz Hawkins finished in a combined time of 1:27.43 to take third overall.
“The men did well. They scored more points than we ever have at this meet,” Ogilvie said. “The goal was to come away with a trophy by finishing in the top four but we ended up fifth. But we competed really hard for that, and our performances were very solid.”
This story was updated at 2:10 p.m. to reflect the stat changes that gave the Duke women the victory.
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