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Duke track and field earns 4 first-place finishes at Bob Pollock Invitational

<p>The Blue Devils have gotten several standout individual performances the past few weeks at unscored meets.&nbsp;</p>

The Blue Devils have gotten several standout individual performances the past few weeks at unscored meets. 

Facing more tough competition after excelling at the Hokie Invite, Duke headed south looking for success this weekend.

At the Bob Pollock Invitational in Clemson, S.C, the Blue Devils fought valiantly during the course of the two-day meet, earning four first-place finishes and bringing home several other top-10 performances. The field featured nine other Division I teams, including nationally-ranked Alabama men’s and women’s squads as well as ACC foes N.C. State, Florida State, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, and host Clemson.

“We’re going to improve week to week as we get better. We’re competing our best athletes in their best events, that’s just natural," said Norm Ogilvie, Duke director of track and field. "We have young athletes striving to get better, but we can’t expect to cover every event."

Junior Madison Heath put forth another strong performance by winning the pole vault, finishing with a vault of 13 feet, 5 1/4 inches. Although her final height was lower than that of her previous two meets, the junior's jump was good enough for first place. Sophomore Nati Sheppard and freshman Laura Marty added vaults of 12 feet, 11 1/2 inches as the Blue Devils snatched all three podium spots.

Sophomore Sydnei Murphy—usually a contender in the 60-meter dash—fell one spot short of qualifying for the finals with a time of 7.62 seconds. Murphy did find success, however, later in the meet with a first-place finish in the women’s triple jump, leaping 40 feet, 3 1/4 inches as well as a third-place finish in the long jump, going 19 feet, 11 inches.

Another highlight then came as senior Madeline Kopp set a personal best and broke her own school record with a time of 1:28.48 in the 600-meter run. She finished fourth behind a trio of world-class runners led by Natoya Goule, who competed for Jamaica at the 2016 Summer Olympics.

The sprinting competition proved much stiffer for junior Maddy Price and sophomore India Lowe, both of whom were praised by Ogilvie after last week’s Hokie Invite. The duo finished ninth and 10th in the 200 meters and in the 400 meters, Price and Kopp finished in fourth and fifth with times of 54.79 seconds and 54.83 seconds, respectively.

The Duke women’s sprint team then garnered fourth in the 4-x-400-meter relay. The team was composed of Lowe, Kopp, Price, and sophomore MacKenzie Kerr. The team finished with a time of 3:42.77, far behind their seed time of 3:33.39, but will surely look to improve in the coming weeks.

“I think we were working hard, training hard. It’s all going to pay big dividends later in the season,” Ogilvie said. “The women’s 4-by-4 will run much faster in the weeks ahead…. The whole track season is a teaching sport. You’re going to run your best late in the season, and we train that way.”

On the men’s side, freshman Matt Wisner had a standout performance with another first-place finish in the 800-meter run with a time of 1:51.38. The ACC-qualifying time was a lifetime best for the rookie and showed how he stacks up against some of the best mid-distance runners in the nation.

In the field events, the Duke men continued their pole-vaulting success. Senior Connor Hall led the team with a second-place vault of 16 feet, 2 3/4 inches. Right behind Hall were a pair of freshmen—Esteban Suarez’s vault of 14 feet, 9 inches put the first-year in third and Blue Devil rookie Caleb Sanford earned fifth with a vault of 13 feet, 9 1/4 inches.

Sophomore Andrew Pancoast earned fourth in the men’s high jump with a height of 6 feet, 6 3/4 inches and sophomore Jeremy McDuffie—a cornerback for the Blue Devil football team—earned fourth in the men’s triple jump in his track and field debut, setting the second all-time Duke record in the event with a jump of 49 feet, 1/2 inches.

The final victory of the meet came in the men’s heptathlon as senior Daniel Golubovic earned first with a score of 5,168 points, followed by teammate Chaz Hawkins’ score of 5,039 points. The Blue Devils' heptathlon leader and defending 2016 ACC indoor champion senior Robert Rohner hurt his hamstring during the competition, however, and was unable to finish.

With the ACC indoor championships in less than a month, both teams believe they can send a large contingent to South Bend, Ind.

"We’re trying to be strong in the distances and we think we will be," Ogilvie said. "We’re a very young team in that area, we’re probably not as strong on the men’s sprint side as say the women are, but these certain things come into play when you try to build a team, and you do the best you can with that, and we certainly feel like we’re doing that.”

Next week, Duke will compete in the Armory Collegiate meet at the famous New York Armory amongst a larger field of 16 teams, including perennial powerhouses Texas and Arkansas. The Blue Devils will also send members from both the men's and women's teams to race in the Camel Invite held in Winston-Salem, N.C.

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