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Duke track and field posts slew of top-five finishes at Hokie Invite

<p>The Blue Devil sprinters led the way on the women's side, with the men's middle-distance performers also excelling in individual and relay events.&nbsp;</p>

The Blue Devil sprinters led the way on the women's side, with the men's middle-distance performers also excelling in individual and relay events. 

After only taking on four teams in their first meet of 2017, the Blue Devils traveled to the Hokie Invite hoping to see where they stack up against a deeper field.

And for the second straight week, Duke's best competitors showed they can hold their own. 

Although team scores were not calculated for the 13-team field featuring ranked teams in Florida, N.C. State and Virginia Tech, several Blue Devils put together standout performances Friday and Saturday at Rector Field House in Blacksburg, Va. Junior Madison Heath cleared 14 feet in the pole vault, taking second place overall and posting the second-best mark in Duke history behind standout Megan Clark, who graduated last May and cleared 15 feet, 2 1/4 inches. 

Sophomore Nati Sheppard took third in the event, and Cassie Martin's first-place finish in the high jump powered the Blue Devil women along with strong finishes from sprinters India Lower, Madeline Kopp and Maddy Price. The Duke men got wins in the 800 meters and 4-x-800-meter relay to also post a strong weekend in Blacksburg.

"Obviously we’re going to be very good in the women’s pole vault, the men’s middle distance has some select areas, and we have some strong high jumpers," Duke director of track and field Norm Ogilvie said. "There’s a lot of good things." 

Coming off a first-place finish in the 200 meters at the Carolina Cup last week, Lowe, a sophomore, took first in the 300 meters in 38.53 seconds Friday, with Kopp and Price less than .3 seconds behind to also finish in the top four.

One of the Blue Devils' few senior stars, Kopp set a team record in the 600 meters, taking first in 1:30.63 to easily win by almost three seconds. Freshman Brittany Aveni took second in 1:33.48 as Duke continued its strong start to the weekend.

On the meet's second day, Lowe, Kopp and Price were back in action in the 200 meters. This time, it was the junior Price leading the trio with a second-place finish and time of 24.34 seconds. Lowe and Kopp also finished in the top five to cap off their busy weekends. 

Price's time was the third-fastest in Blue Devil history, and she and her teammates all bested the ACC qualification standard. 

Sophomore Sydnei Murphy also had another good day, taking fourth in the 60 meters with a time of 7.56 seconds—0.04 seconds faster than the time she used to win the event last week—and winning the long jump with a leap of 19 feet, 10 1/4 inches. 

“We found out that we have the potential to have a truly great women’s 4 by 4 [relay] based on some of the sprint results from [Friday] night," Ogilvie said. "Madeline Kopp continued running really well today and so did India Lowe…. They have been doing a lot of sprinting and they’re in great shape."

Junior Kyle Francis showed he is also in great shape for the Duke men, earning his first collegiate win in the 800 meters with a 1:52.80, turning around a disappointing 2:00.44 finish in last week's Carolina Cup. Senior Dylan Murphy finished less than a second behind his teammate in fourth with a time of 1:53.38.

The tandem was a major part of the Blue Devils' 4-x-800-meter relay squads that took first and third. Murphy teamed with freshman Matt Wisner—who took fourth in the 1,000 meters individually—junior Alec Kunzweiler and freshman Cole Hoff to win the event, and Francis ran with freshman Tom Sullivan, senior Michael Wilson and sophomore Stephen Garrett to take third in 10:21.25, less than 15 seconds behind Duke's A team.  

With several other Blue Devils notching top five finishes and surpassing the ACC qualification standard, Duke will look to continue improving in another unscored two-day meet at the Clemson ACC Challenge next weekend.

"We’re just going to go confident and continue trying to improve," Ogilvie said. 

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