TAMPA, FLA. – On an extremely rainy day at the University of South Florida Track and Field Stadium, the Duke track and field team broke through on its final event of the NCAA East Preliminary Round with a school record and qualifying its 4x400m relay team for the NCAA National meet.
“As we saw coming into the meet, all the rain we were promised showed up today,” said director of track and field Norm Ogilvie. “It had major effects on the field events. The performances were lower than normal but the kids competed extremely hard."
Duke’s 4x400m relay team of India Lowe, MacKenzie Kerr, Brittany Aveni and Maddy Price has had its share of big performances already this year, but none faster than the one they put together on Saturday. The Blue Devils started strong, holding second-place halfway through the race with Lowe racing to a split of 53.80 and Kerr a time of 52.47 to put Duke’s time at 1:46.27. Aveni followed with a split of 53.99 to keep Duke in second in their heat heading into the anchor leg. Price, who had narrowly missed out on qualifying in both the 400m and the 4x100m relay, ensured she would travel to Eugene by running a blazing final split of 51.96 to stop Duke’s time at 3:32.21. That time placed the Blue Devils second in their heat, automatically qualifying them for Nationals, and was the third-fastest time in the region.
“With the way they ran today, they’re going to be a factor in Eugene,” Ogilvie added. “They’re definitely a team that can be the final. We haven’t reached the final outdoors, so it’s probably the big goal to reach that final. It’s definitely within our capability.”
Duke missed having a second relay team advance by the slimmest of margins. The 4x100m relay team of Domonique Panton, Kethlin Campbell, Lowe and Price raced to a time of 44.75 to finish fourth in their heat. The Blue Devils trailed third-place Northwestern State by just .01 seconds and second-place Alabama State by .03, both of whom automatically qualified for a trip to Eugene. It was the third-fastest time by a Duke relay this season and was the second-fastest run by this particular quartet.
“A good run for that squad. In other years that would have made it, but not today,” Ogilvie said. “That’s just the way it happens.”
In the javelin throw, Kiegan Lenihan, competing in the second of three flights, was in position to qualify at the conclusion of his flight, but ended up outside of the top-12. The reigning ACC Champion hit a mark of 197-4 (60.14) to close out his season. It was the fifth time this season Lenihan had broken 60 meters, including a personal-best 221-2 (67.42) at the ACC Championships. Joining Lenihan in concluding his season was Michael Marsack. Lenihan and Marsack finish the year third and fourth on Duke’s all-time list in the javelin throw, as Marsack cleared a personal-best 216-8 (66.03) earlier this year.
A pair of Duke record holders finished up outstanding junior campaigns on Saturday as they missed out on qualifying in their respective events. Stefani Vukajlovic came into the season holding the Duke record in the hammer throw, and she broke that mark on four different occasions, including a personal-best throw of 203-1 (61.90). Panton came into the year with her eyes on the Duke record in the triple jump after breaking the indoor record and she finally did so at the Virginia Grand Prix. Panton had a personal-best leap of 42-2.00 (12.85) at the Grand Prix and followed it by earning second-team All-ACC honors at the ACC Championships.
Rounding out the Duke competitors was Rivers Ridout in the high jump. Ridout cleared both 6-7 (2.01) and 6-9 (2.06) with one blemish at each height, but could not advance past the bar at 6-11 (2.11). Ridout finished the year third all-time at Duke, having cleared 7-0.50 (2.15) at the Duke Invitational and earned second-team All-ACC honors at the ACC Championships.
Duke’s 4x400m relay team, along with Laura Marty and Steven Solomon who both qualified on Friday, will next travel to the NCAA Outdoor Championships in Eugene, Ore. The meet will get underway on Wednesday, June 6 and will run through Saturday, June 9.
“For all the seniors that competed for the last time here, we congratulate them on outstanding careers,” finished Ogilvie. “We’re going to work hard with our six athletes heading to Eugene and for the rest of our team, we hope they have good summers and get ready to come back strong next year.”