DURHAM, N.C. - The Duke track and field team starts its campaign on Saturday at the Carolina Cup. Today we look at the pole vault and multi-event athletes, where returning All-American senior Madison Heath and junior Jaida Lemmons lead the way.
Women’s Pole Vault
Heath stepped up as the top pole vaulter during her junior season. The Mandeville, La., product qualified for both the NCAA Indoor and NCAA Outdoor Championships, finishing in 13th at both to earn a pair of Second-Team All-American honors. Heath finished as the ACC Champion during both the Indoor and Outdoor Track and Field Championships and was named the team’s indoor most valuable performer and field athlete of the year. Heath will be trying to move up in the record books, in which she holds the second-best indoor (14-0.00 [4.27]) and outdoor mark (14-3.25 [4.35]).
Joining Heath at the Outdoor Championships was sophomore Laura Marty. Marty finished in 17th there to be an Honorable Mention All-American. Marty is fourth all-time at Duke in the indoor and outdoor pole vault after she cleared 13-9.25 (4.20) during both campaigns.
Also competing at the ACC Outdoor Championships was junior Nati Sheppard and sophomore Chesney Ward. Sheppard finished in third place and Ward finished in sixth. Both closed out their seasons by qualifying for the NCAA East Preliminaries.
Rounding out the squad will be freshman Rivka Arbiv. Arbiv hails from Dunwoody, Ga., and was the 2017 USATF Junior Olympics National Champion in the pole vault.
Lemmons is the only returning Blue Devil that competed in the multi-events competitions during the 2017 season. Lemmons saved her best performance of her sophomore campaign for last as she set a personal best with 5,397 points in the heptathlon to finish in second place at the ACC Outdoor Championships. That total was the third-best in school history. The DeSoto, Texas native also added personal-bests in the 100 meter hurdles (14.42), 200 meters (25.29), long jump (19-7.50/5.98), shot put (36-3.50/11.06) and javelin (132-4/40.35).
Lemmons will be joined by freshman Erin Marsh. Marsh hails from Buford, Ga., and is a five-time USATF All-American during her prep career. She was a 2017 New Balance Nationals Indoor All-American in the Pentathlon.
On the men’s side, the Blue Devils lose three stalwarts following the graduation of Robert Rohner, Daniel Golubovic and Chaz Hawkins. Rohner and Hawkins were four-year letter-winners while Golubovic rewrote the Duke record books after transferring in as a graduate student. The losses will give sophomore Christian Friis and freshman Jacob Sobota a chance to step into larger roles.
Friis did not compete during his freshman season at Duke, but had a very productive high school career. Friis finished in first-place in the decathlon at both the 2014 AAU Junior Olympic National Championships and the 2015 USATF Junior Olympic National Championships. Sobota brings impressive prep credentials as well. The Knoxville, Tenn., native was the 2016 Hershey National Champion in the decathlon and was ranked No.1 in the state of Tennessee in both the decathlon and pole vault during the 2017 season.
Men’s Pole Vault
Suarez was named the team’s top freshman for the outdoor season and finished in ninth and eighth at the ACC Indoor and Outdoor Championships respectively.
Sanford set a new personal-best when he cleared 15-11.75 (4.87) at the ACC Outdoor Championships, finishing in seventh place.
The Blue Devils begin their season Saturday, Jan. 13, when they travel down the road to Chapel Hill for the Carolina Cup. The meet gets underway at noon in Eddie Smith Field House on the campus of the University of North Carolina. Follow the action here.