After splitting to compete at the Hokie Invitational in Blacksburg, Va. and the Dick Taylor Invitational in Chapel Hill, N.C., the Blue Devils returned to Duke triumphant. In their first full weekend of competition several athletes ran or jumped to top finishes, and some even found themselves breaking school records.
At the Dick Taylor Invitational, Duke’s multi-event and field athletes—as well as a few short-distance runners—competed for the first time since the beginning of December.
“This was a really, really good weekend for Duke,” director of track and field Norm Ogilvie said. “We really stepped it up.”
In Chapel Hill, sophomore Ian Rock took first in the heptathlon after showing his coaches improved performances in previous practices. Rock’s performance was good enough to push him into the record books for Duke as his score was the third highest the school has ever seen.
Rock was not alone at the top—several of his teammates joined him with strong performances, including sophomore Stephanie Skove, who took second in the pole vault with a personal best height of 12-3.5. Senior Emily Mattoon, sophomore Baily Murphy and freshman Megan Clark competed alongside Skove in the same event, taking third, fourth and fifth, respectively.
In the shot put, junior Erica Brand competed for the women, finishing in fourth place with a distance of 42-3.25 while her teammates Stephen Boals and Kyler Shumway took second and third for the men, respectively.
Junior Justin Amezquita, whose strong practices had marked him as a strong competitor to associate head coach Shawn Wilbourn, finished first in the pole vault with a vault of 16-2.75.
Amezquita, who is working towards his end goal of going to nationals, implemented a short approach for his vault in Chapel Hill, one that was expected to decrease height in favor of allowing him to work on perfecting his technique. Despite that, he was able to walk away from the event with a first-place finish.
“It was a good meet,” Amezquita said. “I ran from the same approach in this meet as I did in December and in December I jumped 15-11 and [in Chapel Hill] I jumped 16-2.75 so I got… better. It’s definitely a good confidence boost.”
The strong performances at the Dick Taylor Invite were echoed at the Hokie Invitational where freshmen Anima Banks and Michal Filipczak took down two school records on the first day.
Banks led teammates senior Cydney Ross and sophomore Abby Farley as they finished the 1000m race in 2:48.17, 2:49.03 and 2:51.13, respectively. Banks’ record-breaking performance was echoed at the end of the day by Filipczak who took second in the 500m race with his time of 1:04.19. The freshman’s performance is now the third-fastest performance on Duke’s all-time list.
After Banks and Filipczak set a high bar by opening the meet with record-breaking performances on Friday, junior Brian Atkinson and senior James Kostelnik proved up to the challenge when they broke records in the 5000m and 3000m races, respectively, the next day.
Atkinson, with his time of 14:10.73, was the lone Blue Devil to finish in the top-five of the event. Kostelnik, however, led two more Duke athletes to top-five spots as he crossed the line in 8:09.49. Senior Mike Moverman and sophomore Shaun Thompson followed shortly behind Kostelnik to take second in 8:14.03 and third in 8:24.32, respectively.
In the mile, the Duke women took three of the top-five spots with senior Juliet Bottorff finishing first with a time of 4:51.34 and leading teammates junior Jessie Rubin and senior Esther Vermeer. Rubin and Vermeer finished less than a second apart from each other as they crossed the line in third with a time of 4:52.64 and fourth with a time of 4:52.68, respectively.
Duke’s 4x400m relay team of sophomores Elizabeth Kerpon, Alexis Roper, Lauren Hansson and Ross also raced to a respectable finish with its time of 3:46.37. Although both runners and coaches were cautious of predicting season-long success so early, the outstanding performances at both meets were clearly confidence-boosters for many of the athletes.
“This is a good base point for us,” Kerpon said. “I think this sets us up for a really, really good season. This was the first meet, we got all of our jitters out and now we’re just ready to go out and run.”