DURHAM, N.C. – The Duke track and field team won the women’s title for the third year in a row at the Battle of the Blues, topping Michigan and North Carolina in Morris Williams Stadium on Friday.
The Blue Devils topped the women’s team standings with 75 points and are now 2-0 (1-0 in the ACC) on the season. Michigan finished in second with 68 points and North Carolina was in third with 60 points. For the men, Michigan repeated as champion with 91 points, followed by North Carolina (69 points) and Duke (43 points).
In her final Battle of the Blues, Maddy Price made sure she left with the title, as the senior from Hillsborough, Calif., finished in first place in three separate events. Price started the meet off with a school record as she combined with Sydnei Murphy, Kethlin Campbell and Domonique Panton to run a time of 44.47 in the 4x100m relay. That was not only the Duke record, but it was also the Morris Williams Stadium facility record and the Battle of the Blues meet record.
“The 4x100m relay was excellent,” said director of track and field Norm Ogilvie. “As a matter of fact, if you want to pick an MVP, I’d go with Madeline Price. She was on that 4x100 and then she won the 400 and won the 200m. A great triple for her. A great performance for her in three straight events.”
Price followed that relay performance with first place finishes in both the 400m and 200m. Price cruised to a time of 53.21 in the 400m, a season-best for her, and then raced to a time of 23.53 in the 200m, just .05 seconds off her school record time.
Price was hardly alone in finishing in first place, as Duke took the top spot in the podium in 11 events. The first Blue Devil to win her event was Stefani Vukajlovic, topping the women’s hammer standings. Vukajlovic trailed North Carolina’s Jillian Shippee heading into Vukajlovic’s fifth throw. The Banja Luka, Bosnia-Herezegovina product used that fifth throw to jump into the lead, passing Shippee by two inches with a throw of 203-0 (61.89). That throw was just one centimeter shorter than Vukajlovic’s school record throw at last week’s Texas Relays, but it did break the Battle of the Blues meet record.
“We got the whole day off to a good start with Stefani” commented Ogilvie. “She’s throwing the hammer out by 203 feet and beats the UNC athlete by two inches. That was a great harbinger for the day, if we could beat UNC in a tight one in the hammer, then hopefully the rest of the day could go well and it did.”
Duke’s most dominant events came in the women’s pole vault and the men’s javelin throw. In the women’s pole vault, the Blue Devils took first, second, fourth and fifth. Laura Marty took home her first individual win of the season by clearing 13-6.25 (4.12). Right behind her in second with the same clearance was Madison Heath. Nati Sheppard tacked on a point to the team score by taking fourth place with a clearance of 12-6.25 (3.82). In her outdoor debut, Rivka Arbiv hit the same mark as Sheppard to claim fifth place.
“It’s really nice to rely on them,” Ogilvie said. “The women’s pole vault crew is the best and we think we have the best pole vault coach in the nation in (associate head coach) Shawn Wilbourn.
In the men’s javelin throw, Duke claimed a pair of top-five marks in school history as well as four of the top five places. Kiegan Lenihan crushed his previous personal-best with a throw of 217-9 (66.38) to take first place. That puts Lenihan third all-time at Duke. In second place was Michael Marsack, who had a personal-best of his own, reaching 216-7 (66.03) to place him fourth all-time in school history. Rounding out the top three was Nicholas Solfanelli who threw the javelin 206-2 (62.85) to set a season-best. Finishing in fifth place was Travis Closs, reaching a season-best 185-0 (56.38).
"Another real shoutout needs to go to the men’s javelin, they were a very dominant group today,” said Ogilvie. “It was a lifetime best for Kiegan and then there were some other guys over 205-0.”
Duke finished with a sweep of both the javelin and the women’s hurdles. In the women’s javelin, Jaida Lemmons needed just one throw to take first place. Lemmons threw the javelin 140-10 (42.92) on her first try to set a personal-best and join Lenihan in topping the javelin standings. In the 100m hurdles and the 400m hurdles, Erin Marsh and India Lowe both breezed away from the competition. Marsh, just one week after running a time of 14.02 in the 100m hurdles, dropped her personal-best time even lower to 13.83 to take home first place. Marsh is now second all-time at Duke. Lemmons was not far behind her with a personal-best 14.39 to finish in third. In the 400m hurdles, Lowe cruised to a time of 59.46, finishing in first place and becoming only third Blue Devil to finish the event in less than a minute. Like Marsh, Lauren Hoffman also dropped her time from last week, going from 1:00.50 to 1:00.27 to take second behind Lowe. Lowe and Hoffman are now third and fourth, respectively, in school history.
In the triple jump, Panton used her sixth and final jump to set a personal-best. Panton was in first-place heading into her final jump, but she used that last opportunity to clear 41-0.25 (12.51), placing her second all-time at Duke in the event.
Rounding out the first place finishes was Alec Kunzweiler, who won in his first time running in the 3,000m steeplechase. Kunzweiler raced like a seasoned veteran, as he sat just behind the leaders for the majority of the race and then in the final lap, he raced the fastest split among the competitors and took the lead. Kunzweiler finished with a time of 9:03.39. Also racing in their first steeplechases were Olivia Gwynn and Michael Ungvarsky, and both took third place in the respective races. Gwynn finished the race with a time of 19:45.37 while Ungvarsky crossed the finish line in 9:11.10.
“Our distance group was really proud of the performances today, all running in their first steeplechases,” Ogilvie said.
Although Kethlin Campbell did not finish in first place in either of her individual races, she did jump into the top-five in school history in all three of her races on the day. Campbell started her day helping the 4x100m relay set the school record and then finished third in both the 100m and the 200m. Campbell’s time of 11.75 in the 100m is good for third in school history and her 23.93 time in the 200m puts her in fifth among all Duke runners. With Campbell now third all-time in the 100m, the 4x100m relay now has the three fastest Blue Devils in the event, as Price and Murphy are first and second, respectively, all-time. Joining Campbell in setting a personal-best in the 200m was MacKenzie Kerr and Simi Gbadegesin, clocking a time of 24.30 and 25.12 respectively.
Duke had seven different Blue Devils set personal or season-bests between the 800m and the 1,500m. In the men’s 800m, two of the top three finishers belonged to Duke. Jordan Burton came in second place with a lifetime best of 1:51.13. Taking third place was Kyle Francis with a time of 1:51.50 with his season-best time. In the women’s 800m, Brittany Aveni added a second-place finish after crossing the finish line in 2:07.20, a season-best. In the women’s 1,500m, Gwynn (4:29.88), Kim Hallowes (4:30.17) and Gabrielle Richichi (4:34.38) all set personal-best marks. Matt Wisner did the same in the men’s 1,500m, breaking 3:49.00 to finish in third place.
“We’re really happy with the half-milers, Burton and Francis,” said Ogilvie. “A lifetime best for Burton who’s normally a 1,500m runner but we switched him up and our normal 800m runner, Wisner, went to the 1,500m. We tried a few different events today since it’s early in the season and we want to feel them out.”
Coming in second place in the women’s high jump was Tracy Jander. Jander cleared 5-4.25 (1.63), which is a season-best.
Miles Mingo and Tionne Barmer both set personal-bests in the men’s sprints. Mingo clocked a time of 47.71 to finish in second place in the 400m. That puts him in fifth all-time at Duke. Barmer set his personal-best in the 200m by sprinting to the finish line in 21.95.
Nikhil Pulimood missed the top three in the 3,000m by less than a second, crossing the finish line in 8:17.96 to finish in fourth place.
In the long jump, JR Smith finished in the top three with a jump of 22-0.75 (6.72). Also finishing in the top three was Jack Maher and Iyin Battle. Maher was third in the shot put, with a throw of 49-5.75 (15.08) while Battle finished in second in the discus (146-2 [44.56]) and third in the hammer throw (185-7 [56.57]).
“I think it was a really good meet,” added Ogilvie. “I think both of the teams were glad to go a day early since tomorrow the weather might not be so good. We really appreciate their flexibility on that because today had beautiful weather.”
Duke will be back in action on Thursday, April 12 when they travel to the Tennessee Relays.