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Women's sprinters highlight impressive weekend for Duke track and field on West Coast

<p>Madeline Kopp was part of Duke's 4-x-100-meter relay team that edged Wyoming by a hundredth of a second to take home first place.</p>

Madeline Kopp was part of Duke's 4-x-100-meter relay team that edged Wyoming by a hundredth of a second to take home first place.

After a solid performance at the Tennessee Relays, the Blue Devils sent a small group of their top athletes to California to get more exposure to national competition.

And with four days of record-setting performances behind it, Duke will return home looking to build on some season-best efforts as the regular season winds down. 

Multiple Blue Devils competed in the Mt. Sac Relays Wednesday and Thursday in Azusa, Calif., with others competing at the and Pacific Coast Intercollegiate in Long Beach, Calif., Thursday before the Beach Invite Friday and Saturday. Although Duke sent a small group of athletes, the Blue Devils set some of the best marks in school history and were competitive with the top performances in the ACC at this point in the season. 

“[The four-day stretch] was very solid,” Duke associate head coach Shawn Wilbourn said. “We came out here expecting to do well. We come out here because we can rely on the weather and the wind, so we know exactly what we're going to get. Our kids performed. Almost every one of them stepped up.”

The Blue Devils opened their California trip on a high note at the Mt. Sac relays.

Graduate student Daniel Golubovic took eighth in the men’s decathlon, opening the first day of the event with 3,780 points, including a fifth-place finish in shot put at 44 feet, 5 1/2 inches. Although the Los Angeles native trailed in his first five events, he made up the difference. Golubovic took second in discus at 146 feet, 1 inch, followed by a fifth-place finish in pole vault at 15 feet, 5 inches to increase his total to 7,500 points—the second-most in Duke history and the most in the ACC this spring.

Fellow graduate student Robert Rohner also etched his name in program history in the decathlon thanks to solid performances in both days. Rohner opened day one with 3,857 points thanks to a fourth-place finish in shot put at 44 feet, 6 1/4 inches and a ninth-place distance in the long jump of 23 feet, 7.25 inches.

On the second day of the event, the Sumter, S.C., native notched a third-place finish in discus at 144 feet, 8 inches and a fifth-place showing at the javelin throw at 181 feet, 7 inches to secure 7,423 points, putting him just behind Golubovic at third in Duke history and second in the league.

In the women's heptathlon, sophomore Jaida Lemmons had a slow start but pushed through the second half of competition to take seventh overall with 5,066 points—the fourth-highest point total in Duke history. Lemmons notched personal-best times in the 100- and 200-meter hurdles, and capped her time in California with a 13th-place finish in the long jump at 17 feet, 10 3/4 inches.

“[The records] say something about where we're headed and the recruiting and coaching that's going on,” Wilbourn said. “Every year we're continuing to break school records and moving kids up our all-time top-five list. It's exciting, and the future is definitely bright.”

The Blue Devil women continued to take down program records with a strong showing from the women’s team at the Pacific Coast Intercollegiate.

Duke started out strong in Long Beach, taking the 4-x-100-meter relay title in a tight contest against Wyoming. The Blue Devil squad of sophomore Sydnei Murphy, senior Madeline Kopp, sophomore MacKenzie Kerr and sophomore India Lowe came into the final leg 0.13 seconds ahead of the Cowgirls. Although Wyoming’s Jerayah Davis made a heroic final push, Lowe held on for the anchor, giving Duke the title at 45.73 seconds—just ahead of the Cowgirls’ 45.74.

The Blue Devil relay squad continued their momentum individually, with Kopp taking the 400-meter title at 53.46 seconds—a second ahead of her closest competition. Although Kerr struggled in ninth-place in the 800 meters, Lowe took third in the 200-meter race by topping her collegiate competitors and only finishing behind competitors from the Olympic Training Center.

In field events, Duke took first and second in the javelin, with freshman Katelyn Gochenour taking the title at 153 feet, 11 inches, followed by senior Christine Streisel with a distance of 149 feet, 7 inches.

Junior pole vaulter Madison Heath took sixth for the second-best clearance in Duke history at 14 feet, 3 1/4 inches, and freshman Laura Marty placed seventh against tough competition at 13 feet, 9 1/4 inches to set a Blue Devil freshman record.

Although Duke only sent a few athletes from the men’s team, the Blue Devils still found some success on the men’s side. Sophomore Nicholas Solfanelli took second in the javelin throw at 208 feet, 11 inches, and senior Connor Hall took fourth with the third-highest clearance in Duke history at 17 feet, 3/4 inches.

“We came out here with our top-level kids,” Wilbourn said. “We brought our kids who were close to qualifying for regionals and NCAA and we wanted to give those kids an opportunity to perform and get on the national list.”

In their final two days in California, the Blue Devils faced some of their toughest opponents yet in the Beach Invite.

Gochenour again stepped up in the javelin throw, setting a new school record at 170 feet, 2 inches to take fourth place in the competition and post the best mark in the ACC. Hall tied for sixth in the men’s pole vault at 17 feet, 3/4 inches—a repeat of his impressive performance just two days earlier. 

Murphy continued the success in the field in her long jump, posting a leap of 20 feet, 1 1/2 inches to take fourth overall and second among collegiate competitors.

On the track, Kerr took sixth place in the 400 meters with a personal-best time of 54.14 seconds—the fifth-fastest mark in Duke history. Kerr, Lowe, Kopp and Price went on to compete in the 4-x-400 meter relay, taking second at 3:38.70—just two seconds behind first-place North Dakota State.

With a long campaign in California behind them, the Blue Devils will continue preparing for the ACC championship in mid-May when they host the Duke Invite Friday and Saturday. 

“We're excited at where we are and how we're performing and we look forward to placing very high on the women's side at the ACC championships,” Wilbourn said. “We can be a contender to be up in the top three. We just got to get some other kids to step up a little bit and we'll be right in the mix.”


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