DURHAM, N.C. -- With the start of the 2014 Duke track and field season set for Jan. 17 at the Virginia Tech Invitational, GoDuke.com met with each coach to discuss the upcoming season. Today’s preview focuses on the Duke multis and sprinters, headed by Shawn Wilbourn.
4x400 Meter Relay
In 2013, the 4x400 meter relay, comprised of senior Marcus Wright, redshirt senior Curtis Beach, senior Ben Raskin and middle-distance runner Michal Filipczak, placed third at the ACC Championship in a school record time of 3:12.78, besting the previous time which stood for 13 years. Wilbourn looks forward to the potential of Duke’s 4x400m relay in 2014, with the addition of freshman Chaz Hawkins, a former Tennessee state champion in the 400m.
The women’s 4x400m relay also returns a substantial portion of the school record-setting team, with three quarters of the 2013 relay returning for Duke in 2014. Juniors Lauren Hansson, Elizabeth Kerpon and Alexis Roper all look to improve on the 3:37.51 the team ran a year ago, with the addition of freshman Madeline Kopp or junior Callie Francis, both of whom Wilbourn believes possess the potential to fill the fourth leg of the relay.
Wilbourn praises the versatility of Duke’s multi-event athletes, with Beach perhaps the greatest exemplar of this versatility.
“We’re excited to see what he can do as a fifth-year senior, especially with the NCAA [Championship] being in Albequerque, N.M., his home town,” Wilbourn said. “He’s going to have a hometown crowd, and he knows the venue. The motivation will be there, so it’s going to be fun.”
Beach’s accolades include an NCAA and ACC title in the heptathlon in 2012, two appearances at the NCAA Indoor Championship, an appearance at the NCAA Outdoor Championship, an Outdoor IC4A title in the long jump and an Indoor ACC Scholar Athlete of the Year accolade, among many other honors, rate him as one of the best multi-event athletes to ever compete for Duke
“The maturity, where he can go in [to a major competition] and there’s a comfort level, is important for him,” Wilbourn said. “He’s not chasing these guys that he watched as he was maturing and coming through the ranks. Now he’s the big dog. He’s the guy. There’s a level of confidence that goes with that. When Curtis is confident, Curtis competes.”
Junior Ian Rock joins Beach as a stellar competitor in the multi-events, earning a 2013 ACC Indoor Championship title in the heptathlon after scoring 5,328 points and placing third on Duke’s all-time list. As with many of the multi-events athletes, Rock’s versatility allowed him to contribute for the Blue Devils in various events in 2013, including the pole vault. Rock, who placed sixth overall and was the second Blue Devil to score at the ACC Championship in the pole vault a year ago, recorded a height of 16-9.25 (5.11), ranking him fifth on Duke’s all-time list.
Sophomore Robert Rohner proved himself a talented multi-event athlete after the Sumter, S.C., native competed in his first collegiate heptathlon at the conference championship and placed seventh overall after scoring 4,814 points. Rohner’s point total ranks him fifth on Duke’s all-time heptathlon performance list. Wilbourn sees continued growth in Rohner and is excited for his prospects come the outdoor season.
The Blue Devils also welcome Hawkins, a versatile member of Duke’s track and field team. Although Hawkins’ speed on the track, may allow him to contribute in the 4x400m relay, the Franklin, Tenn., Hawkins joins the Blue Devil squad with prior experience as a multi-event athlete, capturing a Tennessee state championship during his high school career.
“I think we have four guys that can score indoors and outdoors at the ACC level,” Wilbourn said.
For the women, redshirt sophomore Karli Johonnot returns as Duke’s top performer in the heptathlon following a third-place finish at the outdoor conference championship in 2013.
“We’re really strong with the return of Karli Johonnot coming in with a full fall to train coming off her Achilles injury, where as a freshman she won the indoor conference championship and tore her Achilles the next day,” Wilbourn said. “She’s back healthy and she looks great. I’m excited to see her compete for an ACC Championship and an NCAA qualifying berth.”
Johonnot returned from her Achilles injury in 2013 by compiling 5,033 points at the Virginia Challenge, ranking her third on Duke’s all-time list. Earlier in the season the Las Vegas, Nev., native placed third at the conference championship, recording 5,016 points.
“[The injury] has definitely made her hungrier,” Wilbourn said. “Being away from the sport made her realize how much she loves it. She’s extremely motivated. She’s someone who has the internal drive to be successful not only in academics, but in her sport. She expects great things from herself and I think she’s going to achieve those things. I’m really excited to see her compete.”
Freshman Kendall Gustafson also bolsters the Duke multi-event athlete contingent, bringing international competition experience into her first year as a collegiate student-athlete. Gustafson boasts a heptathlon point total best of 5,217, which would rank her first on Duke’s all-time performance list.
Redshirt sophomore Teddi Maslowski looks to return to form following the 2013 season which she missed due to injury. Maslowski placed ninth in her first indoor conference championship appearance during her freshman campaign and improved on her finish during the outdoor season, placing fourth in the heptathlon at the ACC Championship, finishing with 4,873 points, which ranks her fourth on Duke’s all-time list. Wilbourn looks forward to Maslowski returning to form and challenging her teammates in practice.
Junior Baily Murphy has seen considerable success for Duke after transitioning from the pole vault to the multi-events in 2013. One of three multi-event athletes to appear on Duke’s top-five performance list in the heptathlon and the pentathlon, Murphy enters the 2013 season after placing fifth at the ACC Indoor Championship and fourth at the ACC Outdoor Championship. The Belvidere, Ill., native also appeared on Duke’s school record-setting sprint medley relay and 4x100m relay, demonstrating her speed and versatility on the track.
Senior Miray Seward comes off her most successful collegiate season, placing second in the pentathlon at the ACC Indoor Championship and earning her first All-ACC honors. Seward’s personal-best point total of 3,784 ranks her third all-time on Duke’s performance list in the event. Seward also scored at the conference championship during the outdoor season, placing eighth in the heptathlon. A captain on the team, Wilbourn believes Seward’s leadership helps guide the talented Duke multi-event athletes.
The Blue Devils return three of the top-five all-time performers in school history in both the pentathlon and the heptathlon, further emphasizing the depth Duke’s multi-event athletes provide for the Blue Devils in 2014.
“It’s a talented group,” Wilbourn said. “They push each other. They motivate each other. They coach each other. They’re a lot of fun to coach.”
Once again, the diversity of the multi-event athletes is evidenced by Beach, who holds school records in the 200m and 400m distances, as well as the third-fastest time in school history at 100m. Beach’s 400m time of 46.72 bested the previous record of 46.74, which stood for 40 years.
Both Wright and Raskin also provide range for Duke in the sprints, with both demonstrating the ability to compete at distances from 100m to 400m. In addition to contributing on the 4x400m relay, Raskin also rates as Duke’s top-performer in the 400m open last season, recording a personal-best time of 49.44 during the indoor season, which ranked the Summit, N.J., native fifth on Duke’s all-time list. Wright returns after setting multiple personal-best times in 2013, recording a personal-records at 60m, 100m, 200m and 300m.
60/100/110/400 meter hurdles
Wilbourn is excited for the development of the men’s 400m hurdlers, including sophomore Matthew Rodio and freshman Michael Wilson. Prior to his specialization in the 400m hurdles outdoor, Rodio led off the seventh-place finishing 4x400m relay at the 2013 ACC Championship. During his freshman campaign, Rodio reached the ACC Championship in the 400m hurdles, placing 12th overall in a personal-best time of 54.62.
Senior Hannah Goranson, the school record holder in the 60m hurdles enters her final season at Duke.
“[Goranson] has shown the improvement and the leadership as a senior, and I hope she goes out in style here, her senior year,” Wilbourn said.
Goranson placed ninth in the 60m hurdles at the ACC Indoor Championship in 2013, narrowly missing the finals in the event. Wilbourn looks forward to Goranson breaking through in the 60m hurdles and reaching the finals of the conference meet this season, both indoor and outdoor.
Maslowski looks to contribute in the 400m hurdles, returning as Duke’s second-fastest finisher in school history after recording a personal-best mark of 1:01.38 at the Penn Relays in 2012.
Wilbourn returns two experienced pole-vaulters in Justin Amezquita and Megan Clark. Amezquita continues to improve heading into his senior campaign, with his 2013 indoor season culminating in a fourth-place finish at the ACC Championship and a personal-best clearance of 17-5 (5.31). During the outdoor season, Amezquita cleared 16-0.75 (4.90) to place fourth at the ACC Outdoor Championship.
Clark, Duke’s top-performer in the pole vault last season, placed fourth at the ACC Indoor Championship, with a mark of 13-0.25 (3.97). The Fort Benning, Ga., native currently ranks third on Duke’s all-time list in both the indoor and outdoor pole vault, with clearances of 13-1.00 (3.99) and 13-7.25 (4.15), respectively. In her most recent competition, Clark travelled to Medellin, Columbia to compete in the 2013 Pan Am Junior Athletics Championship, where she placed fifth overall with a clearance of 13-1.5 (4.00).
“We’re getting to a level for both programs where we have depth and we’re able to be competitive in a lot more events than we were just a few years ago,” Wilbourn said. “From a team aspect, I’m excited to see what we can do as a team.”