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Duke women's track and field wins Battle of the Blues, led by Price's 3 victories

<p>Duke's women's team won nine different events on its way to the Battle of the Blues title.</p>

Duke's women's team won nine different events on its way to the Battle of the Blues title.

The Blue Devil women wore their blue best on the track at Morris Williams Stadium Friday night in their first home meet of the season.

Duke tallied 75 points to edge Michigan and North Carolina in the Battle of the Blues, led by senior sprinter Madeline Price's victories in the 200 meters, 400 meters and the 4x100-meter relay. On the men's side, the Blue Devils finished with 43 points, well behind the first-place Wolverines' 91 points and trailing the Tar Heels as well.

Duke's women's 4x100-meter relay team of Price, Sydnei Murphy, Kethlin Campbell and Domonique Panton broke the facility record at their three-year-old home track with a time of 44.47 seconds.

"If you want to pick an MVP, it would certainly be Madeline Price," director of track and field Norm Ogilvie said. "She was on that record 4x100 and then she won the 400 and she won the 200, so a great triple for her. If we had to, we could have used her on the 4x400, but since we had clinched the title at that point, we decided to give Madeline a break."

Price won the 400 meters with a time of 53.21 seconds, and she crossed the finish line in 23.53 seconds in the 200 meters about an hour later to beat Michigan sophomore Jade Harrison by just 0.04 seconds.

The Blue Devils created a lot of separation on the team leaderboard in the women's field events as well, taking first, second, fourth and fifth in the pole vault, led by sophomore Laura Marty and senior Madison Heath.

"The women’s pole vaulting crew is the best," Ogilvie said. "We think we have the best vault coach in the nation in Coach Wilbourn."

Duke won the first event of the day when junior Stefani Vukajlovic threw the hammer 203 feet, beating North Carolina's Jillian Shippee by only two inches. 

"That was a good harbinger for the rest of the day," Ogilvie said. "If we can beat UNC in a tight one in the hammer, maybe the rest of the day can go well, and it did."

Domonique Panton bookended the meet with a victory in the last women's field event of the night by leaping more than 41 feet in the triple jump. In between, junior Jaida Lemmons dominated the field in the javelin, throwing the spear 140 feet, 10 inches, more than 18 feet ahead of second place.

Freshman Erin Marsh finished behind Lemmons in fourth place in the javelin and also took home first place in the 100-meter hurdles with a personal-best time of 13.83 seconds.

"Erin’s got great potential as a heptathlete, and she’s good enough in certain individual events to be a factor in the ACC as well," Ogilvie said. "She’s going to be a real good one."

Michigan dominated the women's distance events, claiming first place in every race at least 800 meters long, but the Blue Devils built enough of a cushion in the field to win the meet by seven points.

The men's team put two first-place finishers on the podium, led by a resounding win in the javelin. Sophomore Kiegan Lenihan finished first with a throw of 217 feet, nine inches, and Michael Marsack and and Nicholas Solfanelli were not far behind to complete a Duke sweep of the top three spots.

In his first competitive college steeplechase ever, senior Alec Kunzweiler won the 3,000-meter event with a time of 9:03.39, and freshman Mike Ungvarsky wound up in third place in 9:11.10. Both runners qualified for the ACC championships with their times.

"They both went under the ACC auto-standard, so that was a really nice moment for our men’s distance runners," Ogilvie said. "Also, we’re really happy with the half-milers, [Jordan] Burton and [Kyle] Francis, all-time PR for Burton."

Burton and Francis finished second and third, respectively, in the 800 meters, both less than a second behind Tar Heel senior Cory Nicholls. Once again, Michigan dominated the longer events, taking four of the top five spots in the 1,500 meters and the 3,000 meters.

"The Michigan men’s team, they’re a juggernaut and they’re tough. That’s why we have them here, to push us harder," Ogilvie said. "Both of the other teams, we’re really glad they came, and they made the sacrifice of going a day early because this meet was originally supposed to be on Saturday.... I’ve been here 28 years, we’ve never asked teams to do that before, but we feel it was definitely warranted looking at the forecast."

The Blue Devils will travel to Knoxville, Tenn., next weekend for the Tennessee Relays before returning for their second and final home meet at the Duke Invite April 20-21.


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