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Johonnot, Rohner, Clark claim gold for Duke track and field at ACC indoor championships

<p>Redshirt senior Karli Johonnot bookended her indoor track career with another ACC&nbsp;pentathlon title in Boston, winning with 4,234 points.</p>

Redshirt senior Karli Johonnot bookended her indoor track career with another ACC pentathlon title in Boston, winning with 4,234 points.

Four years after capturing gold in the pentathlon of the ACC championships in Boston as a freshman, redshirt senior Karli Johonnot climbed up to the top of the podium at the Reggie Lewis Center again—but this time, not on crutches.

Johonnot won the 2012 conference title with 3,964 points, then turned her attention to the individual high jump. The event prove to be her last for more than a year, as she tore her Achilles tendon on an attempt and was put on crutches for the remainder of the meet, including the awards ceremony for the pentathlon.

The Las Vegas native redshirted the 2013 indoor season, but returned to top form this season, claiming the pentathlon title at the ACC championships with a total of 4,234 points to guide the No. 16 Blue Devil women to a fifth-place finish.

“I’m still in denial. It was really nice to be on the podium and not be on crutches,” Johonnot said. “I’m really grateful for how this season has turned out—to have those PRs and break those boundaries that I’ve been trying for years to do.”

After finishing sixth in the 60-meter hurdles in 8.75 seconds to open Thursday’s five-event contest, Johonnot began to climb up the leaderboard. She missed her goal clearance in her signature high jump, but moved up to fourth overall with a mark of 5 feet, 7 1/4 inches. After a throw of 42 feet, 6 1/4 inches in the shot put and a personal-best leap of 19 feet, 9 3/4 inches in the long jump, Johonnot was in the lead.

With just the 800 meters left to go, Johonnot knew the victory would be hers if she did not allow Melissa-Maree Farrington of Florida State and Tory Kemp of North Carolina to beat her across the line by more than five or six seconds. She finished fifth in a season-best time of 2:20.50 to clinch the win.

“I just went for it,” Johonnot said. “It was really cool to run with my teammate Teddi [Maslowski]—she’s my best friend. We were one and two for the first three laps and it was the best feeling because we were running side by side and the whole team was there cheering. It was a great way to win the whole pentathlon.”

Johonnot all but punched her ticket to the NCAA championships March 11-12 with her converted point total of 4,304 for the win at the Tobacco Road Cup Jan. 29. Her mark stands as the eighth-highest score in the country so far this season, and the top 16 athletes will qualify to compete in Hoover, Ala.

The Blue Devils secured two more ACC titles Friday. Robert Rohner finished the second day of the men’s heptathlon with 5,477 points for the victory and Megan Clark outlasted the field in the women’s pole vault for her second consecutive indoor conference gold medal, clearing 14 feet, 10 inches to set a new meet record.

Rohner led the men’s multi-event from the opening 60-meter dash Thursday. The senior recorded the top or second-best mark in four of the seven events to build a sizable lead heading into the final 1,000 meters against all but one competitor—teammate Tanner Johnson.

Johnson trailed Rohner by 61 points as the pair of Blue Devils took to the track for the final event and could have stolen the win with a dominant performance. But Rohner bested the field with a time of 2:43.21, and Johnson took second in 2:43.62 for a total of 5,412 points.

“It was great to see Robert execute such a complete heptathlon—he led wire to wire. He won the 60 [meter dash] and never looked back,” Duke director of track and field Norm Ogilvie said. “He finished it by winning the 1,000 [meters], which we aren’t accustomed to seeing Robert doing. But he ran it hard because he wanted to win.”

A Duke athlete has now earned a spot on the heptathlon podium every year since 2010, with four ACC titles in the five seasons between 2012 and 2016. 

“We have had a really good run with the multi events,” Rohner said. “Both [of us] getting up on the podium was the goal for sure, and being able to do that was special. It’s awesome to have your training partner and one of your best friends up there with you.”

Clark recorded her second-best vault of the season for her victory Friday. The Fort Benning, Ga., native and Miami’s Alysha Newman were the final two athletes left as the bar was raised to 14 feet, 10 inches, much like the scene Feb. 6 at the Armory Invitational, when the pair pushed each other to break their own personal and school records and Clark became the fourth collegiate vaulter in history to clear 15 feet.

Newman knocked down the bar on all three of her attempts at the new height, but Clark clinched the victory with her clearance. The two will meet for a third time on the national stage in Hoover—Newman sits fourth in the national standings and Clark holds the top spot with her conference-record mark of 15 feet, 1 inch.

The Blue Devil women earned a number of other top-five finishes to contribute to their 59-point team total, including a second-place finish by Anima Banks in the 800 meters, a fourth-place finish by Johonnot in the high jump and a fourth-place finish by the women’s 4-x-400 meter relay squad, which consisted of Banks, Madeline Price, Maddy Kopp and Mackenzie Kerr.

The men’s squad tallied 26 points to finish 12th.

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