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Duke track and field stars head west for 3 meets hoping to post season-best marks

<p>The Blue Devil women's sprinters and sprint relay teams will look to hold their own against tougher competition on the West Coast.&nbsp;</p>

The Blue Devil women's sprinters and sprint relay teams will look to hold their own against tougher competition on the West Coast. 

The Blue Devils will continue what has become a tradition in recent years with a trip out west in between their two home meets of the regular season.

Coming off a successful weekend at the Tennessee Relays—including a first-place finish in the men’s sprint medley relay—Duke is traveling to the West Coast to compete in three different meets. Beginning Wednesday and Thursday, three Blue Devils will represent their squad at the Mt. Sac Relays, and several others will head to the Pacific Coast Intercollegiate in Azusa, Calif., Thursday with the final round of competition taking place Friday and Saturday at the Beach Invite in Long Beach, Calif.

A handful of Duke athletes will look to improve after already posting some of the best marks in program history earlier this season. 

Sydnei Murphy jumped a program-best 21 feet, 6 inches at the Battle of the Blues April 1, placing her at the top of the ACC and seventh in the nation. The sophomore will also compete in the 100 meters Saturday at the Beach Invite.

Murphy will join teammates Madeline Kopp, Mackenzie Kerr, and India Lowe for the 4-x-100-meter relay at the Pacific Coast Intercollegiate. The quartet posted a 45.48-second finish in its last outing at the Battle of the Blues. A sophomore, Lowe finished second on the distance medley relay team at the Tennessee Relays and will hope to carry the momentum into her leg of Friday’s race.

Lowe, Kopp and Kerr will also tackle the 4-x-400-meter relay with junior Maddy Price Saturday in Long Beach. Kopp and Kerr, alongside teammates Brittany Aveni and Kim Hallowes, finished in 3:43.05 at the Battle of the Blues, still more than 10 seconds behind the program record Kopp and Price helped set in 2015.

Kopp will also be busy individually, competing in the 400 meters at the Pacific Coast Intercollegiate Friday and the 800 meters at the Beach Invite Saturday. The senior is 16th the nation with her 52.91-second finish in the 400 meters from Duke’s home meet. The top two slots—and three of the top five—are currently held by runners from Southern California, and the Trojans are scheduled to send athletes to all three meets. 

Kerr will also try her hand in the same two events, though she will swap her days of competition and run the 800 meters Friday and the 400-meter event Saturday.

Just three Blue Devils will participate in the Mt. Sac Relays—sophomore Jaida Lemmons in the women's heptathlon and graduate students Daniel Golubovic and Robert Rohner in the men's decathlon.

Duke’s pole vaulters will compete in either one or both the invitational Thursday and the competition Saturday. Madison Heath posted the 26th-best mark in the nation and matched the best height in the ACC with a vault of 13 feet, 5 1/4 inches in early April and will look to take it even higher this week. The junior will only compete Thursday along with freshman Laura Marty, who stands fifth in the ACC. Chesney Ward and Nati Sheppard round out the Blue Devil pole vaulters—Ward will compete in both events and Sheppard will join her for Saturday’s competition.

In the men’s pole vault, Connor Hall also had a successful outing at the Battle of the Blues, posting 16, feet 7 1/2 inches, a season-best mark.

Nicholas Solfanelli and Kiegan Lenihan will compete in the javelin for the Duke men Friday at the Beach Invite, with Katelyn Gochenour and Christine Streisel representing the women. Gochenour ranks 14th nationally after her throw of 169 feet, 9 inches at the Raleigh Relays March 24—the freshman leads the ACC and set a school record with the mark.

Duke’s other field event participant in Friday’s competition will be Stefani Vukajlovic at hammer throw, marking her third outing of the season. Senior Amarie Bremel will throw discus at the Pacific Coast Intercollegiate and switch to shot put for the Beach Invite after competing in four different field events during the Battle of the Blues.

Following four total days split across the three competitions, the Blue Devils will return home to prepare for their second and final home meet of the outdoor season. The Duke Invite will take place April 21-22 before three days at the Penn Relays to close out the regular season.

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