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Young Duke track and field stars like India Lowe and Matt Wisner shining in 2017

2016 Duke Track - Battle of the Blues
2016 Duke Track - Battle of the Blues

With the Blue Devils enjoying one of their better indoor seasons in recent memory, a number of Duke competitors are hoping to punch tickets to the NCAA championship when the ACC championship continues Friday and Saturday.

And what stands out most about this Blue Devil team is its youth—some of its biggest stars will all be building on some of the best finishes in team history for years to come.

Two of Duke’s best performers have been sophomore India Lowe on the women’s side and rookie Matt Wisner. Lowe is part of a deep group of female sprinters that has the 4-x-400-meter relay gunning for a spot at the NCAA championships, and Wisner won the 800 meters in his first three indoor meets to add to a dangerous Blue Devil distance medley relay squad for the men.

Both competitors have enjoyed immense individual success so far this spring, but you would never know it when talking to them—the two focus on team and relay potential instead.

“I feel like our team has been doing so well because we’re really a team. We depend on one another,” Lowe said. “If one person’s having a rough time we help each other out. It’s really a team effort that’s gotten us to where we are.”

To Lowe’s point, a number of individuals have stood out for the women’s team so far this spring.

Classmate Sydnei Murphy has excelled in the 60 meters with a personal-best time of 7.50 seconds in addition to starring in the long jump and triple jump entering the indoor postseason. Like Lowe and Murphy, senior Madeline Kopp has also set a slew of career bests this season, shining in the 200-, 300-, 400-, 600- and 800-meter events.

Junior Maddy Price and sophomore MacKenzie Kerr have also given pop to Duke’s best relay team, with Lowe’s stardom in the sprint events combining with her teammates’ skill sets to put the Blue Devils in contention for an NCAA championship berth. Lowe, a native of Mechanicsville, Va., will look to improve on her individual 24.33-second time in the 200 meters in the coming weeks.

That mark had her 13th in the ACC heading into the postseason.

“The 200 is personally my favorite race, I’m trying to PR in it, maybe run a 23, break the 24-second [barrier],” Lowe said. “Also, our 4-by-4, it’s very big for us. We’re ranked 13th in the nation, and only the top twelve go to nationals.”

The men’s distance relay team took eighth at the ACC championship Thursday, with Wisner teaming up with junior Brett Bofinger and seniors Dylan Murphy and Alec Kunzweiler to give the Blue Devils a chance to get back to NCAAs, which they last qualified for two years ago. The quartet shaved nine seconds off their personal-best time, and Wisner was excited to see the group put the pieces together leading up to the race.

On his own, Wisner has seemed to put the pieces together in the 800-meter event, already posting the third-best time in team history with a 1:51.38 at the Bob Pollack Invitational in Clemson, S.C..

His other few victories early in 2017 came with times that were a few seconds slower, but as the No. 15 seed in the ACC championship, Wisner hopes faster competition can take him to new heights with the outdoor season on the horizon.

Eight ACC runners have already broken the 1:50-mark this season.

“I don’t think I’ve been in a race situation where I can run as fast as I possibly can. Hopefully this competition will allow me to run under 1:50 or very close,” Wisner said. “I am mostly hoping to be competitive and try to make the final. If I can’t make the finals, at the end of the day running fast, being close, in contention is what I settle for.”

The Blue Devils have several other notable competitors, including junior Madison Heath, who is in position for an ACC championship in the pole vault to continue Duke’s tradition of dominance in that event. But continued development from young talent on the track could take the Blue Devil program to the next level in the coming years.

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