Although inclement weather made for a rough weekend in the field events, the men's and women's relay teams stepped up to give the Blue Devils their share of highlights at the team's final regular season meet.
The Duke women’s 4-x-400- and 4-x-200-meter relays reached the nine-team championship finals Saturday, finishing fifth in both races, to cap the three-day Penn Relays in Philadelphia with season-best performances and post two of the team’s five total top-seven finishes.
The shorter sprint relay is not an NCAA event and will not be contested in the postseason, but the Blue Devils put themselves on the map as strong contenders for the conference and regional championships in the women’s 4-x-400 without Elizabeth Kerpon and Lauren Hansson, the lead and anchor legs of their 2015 school-record-breaking squad.
“Saturday was one of the best days we have had at the Penn Relays and those performances were some of the best we have ever had for Duke,” Duke director of track and field Norm Ogilvie said. “This was great exposure for our program to have them running in front of 44,000 fans and on national television.”
The quartet of Teddi Maslowski, Madeline Kopp, MacKenzie Kerr and Maddy Price posted the second-fastest time in the 81-team preliminary field of the women’s 4-x-400 to kick off the meet Thursday with a time of 3:37.23, earning a middle lane next to Oregon for the start of Saturday’s championship finals.
India Lowe, Kopp, Kerr and Price shaved nearly a second off the squad’s preliminary time two days later, finishing fifth in 3:36.30. The time stands as the fifth-fastest in Duke history.
In the preliminaries of the 4-x-200 Friday, Lowe tagged out Maslowski for the lead leg so the redshirt senior could focus on her 100-meter hurdle preliminaries, but the rest of the relay order remained the same. The squad crossed the line in 1:37.57 to advance to Saturday’s final in sixth.
After just missing the hurdle finals by two spots and less than two-tenths of a second with her time of 14.02 seconds, Maslowski was back in the sprint relay lineup. Lowe, Kopp, Maslowski and Price moved up one spot to finish fifth overall in 1:35.64—the third-fastest time in Duke history.
On the men’s side, the Blue Devils also saw success in both the sprint and distance relays.
Chaz Hawkins, Matt Rodio, Michael Wilson and Jordan Burton posted the fifth-fastest time in program history in the sprint medley relay, finishing seventh with a time of 3:26.90 Thursday.
The men’s 4-x-800-meter relay of Tommy Meister, Kyle Francis, Michal Filipczak and Alec Kunzweiler finished sixth in the 10-team invitational heat. Filipczak chased down Pennsylvania and Georgia Tech to give Duke a shot at fourth with his third-leg split of 1:48.94, but the Yellow Jackets and Quakers were able to reclaim their positions in the final two laps around the track. The Blue Devils finished in a combined time of 7:24.94—the second-fastest time in school history.
“That was the fastest 800 Michal has ever run—it was a breakthrough race for him,” Ogilvie said. “That’s the kind of run that will get him to regionals and would final at ACCs.”
Running the 4-x-mile for the first and only time this season—Duke had fielded a four-man squad for the shorter 4-x-1,500-meter event at the Raleigh Relays in March—Burton, Kunzweiler, Josiah Hanko and Shaun Thompson clocked the seventh-fastest time in the field, crossing the line in 16:44.50 Saturday.
Thompson competed in his lone individual event Friday, cutting his signature 10,000 meters in half to focus on speed work. The graduate student took fifth in the 5,000 meters with a time of 14:04.08—just more than four seconds slower than his collegiate-best of 13:58.82.
Even with the rain, the Blue Devils did not leave Philadelphia without a highlight in the field events.
Despite vaulting in wind and rain with the temperature hovering around 40 degrees, senior Megan Clark and sophomore Madison Heath recorded a one-two finish in the women’s pole vault. Neither Blue Devil jumped close to their personal best heights, but both left the field behind by more than six inches. Heath took second with a final clearance of 13 feet, 5 1/4 inches, and Clark cleared 13 feet, 9 1/4 inches but elected to pack up her pole after clinching the win given the harsh weather. The win marks Clark’s first victory at the Penn Relays.
"It feels good to win because I've been here four times and never won before,” Clark said. "I had to change my steps up a little bit, which was new for me, but I was able to adjust and get it done.”
One Duke harrier avoided the inclement weather entirely with a trip to the west coast. Senior Anima Banks recorded an outdoor personal-best of 2:04.38 in the 800 meters at the Payton Jordan Invitational in Stanford, Calif., shaving more than a second off her time from the 2015 NCAA East regional meet last year of 2:05.42. The Mamaroneck, N.Y., native was four-tenths of a second away from qualifying for the national championships.
The Blue Devils will take almost two weeks to rest and prepare for the postseason, which they will kick off with the ACC outdoor championships May 13-15 in Tallahassee, Fla., followed by the three-day NCAA East regional championships in Jacksonville, Fla., starting May 26.
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