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Sprinters and jumpers lead Duke track and field into ACC indoor championships

<p>Maddy Price and Sydnei Murphy have etched their names into Duke’s record books in the 200 meters and the long jump, respectively.</p>

Maddy Price and Sydnei Murphy have etched their names into Duke’s record books in the 200 meters and the long jump, respectively.

A quick glance at Duke’s record book reveals a recent wave of change in the sprints and jumps on the women’s side.

The school record in every running event up to 400 meters has changed hands in the last four years, as well as the program highs in the long jump and pole vault. For a program that prided itself on distance running in the mid-2000s and produced a world-class 1,500-meter runner in Shannon Rowbury, the Blue Devils’ brand has seen a distinct shift.

“Sometimes it’s just a function of who you’re recruiting and who you get to commit. You don’t order them at the department store. You don’t say, ‘I’ll take a miler and a 200-meter girl and a pole vaulter.’ You have to fight for every position you get,” director of track and field Norm Ogilvie said. “Sometimes, the Duke basketball team has more guards and is a strong perimeter team, and this year they’re an inside team. It’s a function of recruiting.”

Duke is likely to get a sizable chunk of its points in women’s meets this spring from the pole vault and the 200 meters, where it has a mix of veteran leaders and strong newcomers. Ogilvie said five women’s pole vaulters will compete this weekend at the ACC indoor championships in Clemson, S.C., including All-ACC returners Madison Heath, Laura Marty, Nati Sheppard and Chesney Ward.

“Kudos to Coach [Shawn] Wilbourn for developing a really strong brand as a multi-event program and a pole vault program. We’ve been good consistently over the years, and that makes it very attractive for recruits,” Ogilvie said. “We had established a brand as a distance team in the early 2000s, when we were extremely good in the distances, and sometimes you have a little downswing. Right now, we’re on the way back up in the women’s distances.”

In the 200 meters, senior Maddy Price and freshman Kethlin Campbell have both taken turns breaking the school indoor record this winter, and junior Sydnei Murphy also claims multiple program records in the short sprints and the long jump. Junior Domonique Panton also provides depth in the sprints and beat the program best in the triple jump this winter.

Campbell and Price are both expected to compete for points this weekend at the ACC indoor championships and throughout the spring, though the conference is deep in the sprints.

“We’ve got a great one-two punch, no doubt about it, the strongest one-two we’ve ever had in the 200 meters,” Ogilvie said. “But it’s not going to be easy. It’s a humbling, elite conference and lots of quality.... Everybody’s clumped very close together. It’s who does it on the day is what matters.”

On the men’s side, Duke will also likely be most competitive in similar events, with high jumper Rivers Ridout, pole vaulter Esteban Suarez and 400-meter former Olympian Steven Solomon leading the way.

Solomon arrived in Durham this season as a graduate transfer from Stanford, where he was a two-time All-American after he qualified for the finals in the 400 meters at the 2012 London Olympics. Ogilvie said Solomon will leave Duke temporarily to compete in the Commonwealth Games for Australia in April and has spent most of the winter trying to build up endurance in the middle distances in preparation for running the 400 meters there.

Solomon has been responsible for the 800-meter leg of the Blue Devils’ distance medley relay during indoor season and has also run the 600 meters, breaking the school record with a time of 1:17.49 in that event three weeks ago at the Power Five Invite in Ann Arbor, Mich. This weekend’s ACC championships will be the first time he has run a 400-meter race all season.

“He’ll get a quick reminder of how to do it in the first round, but he should advance,” Ogilvie said. “Once he’s in the final, I think all the guys in the ACC better watch out, so if they’re not aware of how good he is, they’ll find out this weekend, but we have real high hopes for Steven.”

Duke’s men’s hopes as a team took a hit on the gridiron in the fall when Blue Devil football safety Jeremy McDuffie, who doubled as an All-ACC hurdler last spring, tore his ACL, which will keep him out for all of track season.

But Ogilvie believe the women are one of about eight teams with a realistic chance to win the ACC championships this weekend and make some noise in the spring as well.

“We’re asking a lot of our athletes, but they’re ready to give a lot, too. Whenever you have at least a chance at the title, it’s exciting,” Ogilvie said. “I think Duke will be back in a place where we can get points in the distances again very soon, and when that happens, watch out. We’re not going to be one of eight teams trying to win. We’re going to be one of two or three with a chance to win.”


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