DURHAM, N.C. – The Duke track & field and cross country teams received eight commitments from student-athletes from across the nation this past week. In what is shaping up to be a talented and balanced class, the Blue Devils received National Letters of Intent from Brittany Aveni (women’s middle distance), Lindsay Billings (women’s distance), Adamson Bryant (men’s distance), Christian Friis (men’s multi-events), Michael Marsack (men’s javelin), Catherine Martin (women’s high jump), Laura Marty (women’s pole vault) and Chesney Ward (women’s pole vault).
“Based on the early-signing period, this looks to be one of our best classes ever,” Director of Track & Field Norm Ogilvie said. “We have a total of six incoming freshmen who are ranked in the top 10 among U.S. returners in their class … It’s also a nice, well-rounded class. Not one of those [ranking in the top 10] doubles up; they’re all in different events.”
A closer look at each future Blue Devil:
Brittany Aveni, a native of Geneva, Ohio, enters her final track & field season at Geneva High School with personal-best times of 55.65 for 400 meters and 2:07.48 for 800 meters, ranking her as the No. 8 returning 800-meter runner among the senior class nationally. Aveni’s personal-best 800-meter effort came at the Ohio D1 State meet, where she placed second overall, with her finishing time ranking 19th in the nation this season at the distance. Aveni also helped guide her high school’s 4×800 team to a national title in Greensboro, contributing to a 8:59.83 team effort. During the 2015 indoor campaign, Aveni clocked personal records for 400 meters (58.69) and 800 meters (2:11.74), with her 800 time ranking as the fastest in the state and 11th in the nation. In her final and only high school cross country season, Aveni posted a career-best five-kilometer time of 18:58.50 at the Ohio D2 State Meet.
Hailing from Duluth, Ga., Lindsay Billings won state titles at distances of 1,600 (4:50.83), 3,200 (10:27.21) and in cross country (18:10.73). Earlier in the season, Billings posted a state-best time of 10:24.42 at 3,200 meters to win the Georgia 6A Region competition, ranking her as the No. 8 returning high school senior in the country in the 3,200, and comes to Duke with a personal-best cross country five-kilometer time of 16:56.46. Additionally, her 1,600 time of 4:50.83 at the Georgia 6A State Meet was the fastest time run at the distance in the state that season.
A product of Sammamish, Wash., Adamson Bryant heads into his final track & field season at Eastlake High School with a personal-best 1,600 time of 4:17.90, while also registering a personal best in the 3,200 of 9:15.02. Bryant recently concluded his final high school cross country campaign, setting a personal-best five-kilometer time of 15:39.00 at the Twilight Invitational, Oct. 3.
Christian Friis, a Santa Rose Beach, Fla., native, will join the Blue Devils after completing his senior campaign at South Walton High School. Friis recently won his second gold medal in as many years in the decathlon at July’s USA Track & Field National Junior Olympics, totaling 6,774 points with junior implements to finish atop the podium. In 2014, Friis claimed first in the same event at the AAU Junior Olympics.
Heading into his senior season at Stroudsburg High School in Stroudsburg, Pa., Michael Marsack stands as one of the top high school prospects in the javelin. Fresh off his victory at the Chicagoland Throwers event this past July with a personal-best toss of 210-10 (64.26m), Marsack ranks as the No. 2 returning high school student-athlete nationally. In addition to his first-place showing in Chicago, the Pennsylvania product captured runner-up honors at the New Balance Nationals in June, throwing the implement 200-11 (61.24m).
A native of Strongsville, Ohio, Cassie Martin finished her junior season undefeated in the high jump, culminating in a gold medal at the Division I Ohio High School State Track and Field meet, clearing a personal-best 5-9.00 (1.75m). Martin’s career-best mark ranks her as the No. 5 returning high school student-athlete in the nation heading into her senior season in 2016.
With a personal-best clearance of 13-7 (4.14m) in the pole vault, Laura Marty enters her final high school season at Bishop Blanchet High School with the second-highest mark among returning high school student-athletes in the country. The Seattle native has set the Washington state record multiple times during her career, with her latest record-breaking performance earning her a win in the pole vault at the 2015 Metro Championships this past May.
Pole vaulter Chesney Ward elected to stay in her home state by signing with the Blue Devils before competing in her final season at Lucy Ragsdale High School. The Jamestown, N.C., product owns a personal-best jump of 12-5.50 (3.80m), helping her take fourth at USATF World Youth Trials this past July. In May, Ward logged a clearance of 12-3 (3.73m) to win the event at the North Carolina 4A Midwest Region meet.