PHILADELPHIA, PA. – The Duke track and field team had historic days at both the Penn Relays in Philadelphia, Pa., and at the Virginia Grand Prix in Charlottesville, Va., to close out the regular season on a high note.
For the third day in a row, the quartet of India Lowe, MacKenzie Kerr, Brittany Aveni and Maddy Price competed as a team in the Penn Relays. The Blue Devil foursome saved the best for last, as they made history by winning the 4x400m Championship of America Invitational to earn Duke’s first women’s title in the sprint relays at the historic Penn Relays. Duke’s team finished in a time of 3:32.43, good for second-fastest in school history as well as being the fastest time in the ACC this season and the ninth fastest time in the country.
The Blue Devils started the race fast and finished it even faster as the race came down to the wire. Lowe and Kerr handled the first two legs in a combined 1:47.53, as Lowe raced to her fastest first leg of her career. With Duke trailing Clemson and UTech, Aveni ran a third leg split of 53.49 to close the gap. Aveni handed it off to senior captain Price, who covered the anchor leg for Duke and ran a blazing split of 51.49, which is both the fastest split of Price’s career as well as the fastest in Duke history. Price used a final kick down the last straightaway to catch Clemson and secure the win for Duke.
“We were third headed into the last straightaway,” said director of track and field Norm Ogilvie. “You could sense the Clemson girl tightening up and that’s all Maddy needed and she went right by her. It’s a great way to end one of Duke’s most successful Penn Relays with the pair of fourth-place finishes yesterday and the title today.”
It is Duke’s fifth title at the Penn Relays and the first since winning the women’s 4x800m relay in 2011. Duke has also won the women’s distance medley relay in 2005, the men’s 4xmile relay in 1972 and the men’s 4x100m relay in 1941.
Duke also had a team in the 4xMile relay earlier in the day. The Blue Devil foursome of Matt Wisner (4:08.5), Jordan Burton (4:10.7), Alex Miley (4:10.1) and Alec Kunzweiler (4:13.9) finished in ninth in the Championship of America invitational with a time of 16:43.15.
At the Virginia Grand Prix, Duke had a pair of school records alongside a litany of personal and season-bests.
“It was a really good day for us,” said associate head coach Shawn Wilbourn. “The weather was perfect, it was warm. We’re out of school and approaching ACCs. Everybody is starting to run well. This is the time of year you’re supposed to do that."
Kethlin Campbell broke not one, but two Duke records at the Grand Prix. Campbell started her day in the 100m and she blazed to a time of 11.59, beating the previous school record by .05 seconds. The freshman from Shelbyville, Tenn., native followed that by racing to a time of 23.38 in the 200m to again claim the Duke record. Campbell is now seventh in the ACC in the 200m this season.
“Kethlin had a great start in the 100m and ran her best race of the year,” said Wilbourn. “She executed very well.”
In the triple jump, Domonique Panton soared to consecutive personal-best jumps. On her second jump of the day, the Freehold, N.J., native cleared 41-3.75 (12.58), moving her into sole possession of second-place on Duke’s all-time list. On her very next attempt, Panton again moved up in the Duke record books, reaching 42-2 (12.85) to give her the school record. Panton takes over the record from Jodi Schlesinger who set it in 2001. Panton now owns the Duke indoor and outdoor triple jump and is fifth in the ACC this season.
“That outdoor school record has been pretty elusive,” Wilbourn said. “It stood for a while. Dom’s had that in her sights for the last couple of years. The conditions were great and she just hit it. She nailed it."
Also moving up in the Duke record book was Iyin Battle in the hammer throw. Battle launched the hammer 189-3 (57.69), placing him second all-time at Duke. Battle is sixth in the ACC this season.
JR Smith cleared a season-best in the long jump. The senior from Aurora, Colo., finished in sixth place with a mark of 22-8 (6.91).
Finishing with not one, but three personal-bests on the day was Kate Kutzer. Kutzer opened her day with a time of 15.10 in the 100m hurdles and followed it by clocking a time of 26.11 in the 200m. She rounded out the day by clearing 18-8.50 (5.70).
In the 400m, Simi Gbadegesin clocked a personal-best time. Gbadegesin crossed the finish line in 57.18.
Chase Peterson and Lauren Hoffman just missed season-bests in the 400m hurdles. Peterson crossed the finish line in 53.60 while Hoffman had a time of 1:00.76 to finish in third. The pair did run season-bests in the 200m with Peterson running a time of 22.87 and Hoffman finishing in 25.88.
Duke had three runners finish in the top-seven of the 1,500m. Kim Hallowes nearly matched her personal-best that she set just last week. Hallowes crossed the finish line in 4:27.97 to earn fourth place. Finishing in sixth and seventh, respectively was Liz Lansing and Leigha Torino. Lansing clocked a time of 4:30.43, a season-best, while Torino finished in 4:30.91.
The men’s javelin crew added another pair of top-ten finishes to its already impressive haul. Kiegan Lenihan had a throw of 203-10 (62.13) to finish in fourth. That is the third time he has cleared 60 meters this season. Right behind him in fifth was Nicholas Solfanelli who threw the javelin 199-11 (60.94). Duke now has 17 top-10 finishes amongst the men’s javelin throwers.
Another dominant event group for Duke was the steadfast women’s pole vaulters. Nati Sheppard cleared 13-3.50 (4.05) for the third straight week and took second place. Also in second was Madison Heath as the Mandeville, La., native also cleared 13-3.50 (4.05). Adding in a season-best was Chesney Ward who had a clearance of 12-9.50 (3.90).
Duke will return to action on Thursday, May 10 when the Blue Devils open competition at the ACC Outdoor Championships in Miami, Fla.
“I think it gives us a ton of confidence heading into ACCs,” added Wilbourn. “As the weather is turning good and our kids are getting out of school, they’re excited to compete. We’re excited with only two weeks to go until ACCs.”