Winter weather limited how much Duke could practice this week, but did not prevent the Blue Devils from notching a top finish in their season-opener.
The Duke men tied for first with North Carolina with 41 points, and the women’s unit finished second behind the Tar Heels in the four-team field at the Dick Taylor Carolina Cup at Eddie Smith Field House in Chapel Hill Friday evening.
Despite not having a full team practice before the meet because of snow and cold air early this week, the Blue Devil men registered four first-place finishes and sophomore Sydnei Murphy delivered a standout performance for the women.
“This was a pretty unusual situation,” Duke head coach Norm Ogilvie said. “We needed to find out where we are…. This was the first time ever the men have even gotten a share of first [at the Carolina Cup].”
The Blue Devil men dominated the field events, with senior Connor Hall and freshmen Esteban Suarez and Caleb Sanford sweeping the top three places in the pole vault to pick up all 10 available points in the event. No other pole vaulter cleared a height at the meet.
Sophomore Rivers Ridout then high-jumped a personal-best 6 feet, 10 1/4 inches to take home first place before he barely missed clearing the pole at seven feet, and junior teammate Colt Sessions was not far behind in second place. The high jump duo added eight points to the Blue Devils' score, and 25 of Duke's 41 points in total came from field events.
In the men’s 3,000-meter run, the Blue Devils earned an additional seven points when Cole Hoff and Stephen Garrett finished first and third. Hoff edged out East Carolina’s Nicholas Ciaccia by less than a second with a time of 8:43.21 before Garrett crossed the line in 8:47.54.
After Matt Wisner added another highlight by running wire-to-wire to pace the men’s 800-meter run, Duke went into the 4 x 400-meter relay holding a five-point lead over North Carolina. But a fourth-place finish in that event by the Blue Devil A team of Wisner, Michal Filipczak, Kyle Francis and Chase Peterson allowed the Tar Heels to come back and register the tie.
Although Duke's A team usually features mostly sprinters, Ogilvie said he altered the lineup due to fatigue.
“We basically ran the 4 x 4 with three half-milers and one sprinter. That’s not our normal squad,” Ogilvie said. “The problem is when you have an early-season meet and you haven’t competed before, sometimes the sprinters will get a little worn down and that was the case, so we used half milers to get it down.”
Despite finishing 32 points behind North Carolina in second place, Duke's women’s unit also notched several impressive performances.
Sophomore Sydnei Murphy headlined the meet by finishing first and setting personal-bests in two different events. The Apex, N.C. native blew away the field in the women’s long jump with a leap of 20 feet, 18 3/4 inches—the next best jump was just more than 18 feet—and then placed first in the 60-meter dash with a time of 7.50.
“That was the single best performance by an individual at the meet,” Ogilvie said. “[She jumped] as far as anyone has ever jumped at Duke in their first meet [of a season].”
The Blue Devils notched two more top finishes in the pole vault. Junior Madison Heath paced the event with a jump of 13 feet, 7 1/4 inches, and sophomore Nati Sheppard finished third, posting a mark of 11 feet, 9 3/4 inches.
Senior Madeline Kopp and sophomore Kim Hollowes then gave Duke another first- and third place-finish in the women’s 800-meter race. Kopp, who usually runs the 400-meter dash, finished first with a time of 2:11.99, and Hollowes clocked in at 2:13.53.
Sophomore India Lowe rounded out the women’s first-place finishers, winning the 200-meter dash.
With warmer weather in the forecast, the Blue Devils will now have a week to practice before they return to the track for the two-day Hokie Invitational beginning next Friday.
Ogilvie said that he might change the Blue Devils’ lineup for that meet depending on what he sees from his squad this week.
“We may switch [Kopp] back to her specialty at Virginia Tech at 400,” Ogilvie said. “There are just some different things we can do…. The whole point is to improve from week one to week two."
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