The women’s middle distance runners shined at the Joe Hilton Invitational Saturday in Chapel Hill, bringing home two first-place finishes in the final meet before conference competition. Freshman Haley Meier and junior Abby Farley debuted their best events Saturday after holding off from competition in the first month of the outdoor season for intensive training. The strategy looks like it will pay off in Meier’s first collegiate outdoor season.
“We really gave her three, maybe four weeks of training now and she’s continually looked better and better since winter,” Duke associate head coach Kevin Jermyn said. “She’s gotten a lot fitter, especially a lot stronger.”
Meier finished with the fastest final lap to win the mile Saturday afternoon. Taking out the first three laps in 3:35.46, Meier kept pace with N.C. State’s Ryanna Henderson and Megan Moye before making her move in the last 400 meters. Meier closed with a split of 1:07.10—nearly three seconds faster than Henderson and Moye—for a final time of 4:42.56.
“The competition today was really good, so that’s a big confidence booster for her to start out so fast, this early in the season,” Jermyn said. “But I think she can go much faster once we get more racing under her.”
Farley also took home a win in her 800-meter debut. Grabbing roughly a one-second lead after the first 400 meters, the junior continued to pull away in the back half, crossing the line in 2:07.78, more than two and a half seconds ahead of Wake Forest’s Riley Tessa in second place.
“Abby just missed making our distance medley relay indoors,” Jermyn said. “It was a tough decision who to run there, so she got really motivated and put together a good month. She’s been looking as good or even better than that in practice. We had high hopes coming in, but it’s also a relief that in her first meet, she was able to put it all together.”
Redshirt sophomore Teddi Maslowski’s performance in the 100-meter hurdles earned her the school record by one one-hundredth of a second. Breaking 14 seconds for the first time, Maslowski crossed the line in 13.92 seconds to win her heat, taking second place overall behind Xenia Rahn of North Carolina.
Adding to the strength of the Blue Devil distance runners is graduate student Juliet Bottorff, who was named the 2014 ACC Women’s Indoor Track and Field Scholar-Athlete of the Year. Bottorff won the 5,000-meter race at the ACC Indoor Championships and took fifth in the same event at the NCAA Indoor Championships. In her final outdoor season as a Blue Devil, Bottorff will look to match that success in the 10,000 meters beginning next weekend.
This weekend’s Joe Hilton Invitational and Bottorff’s accolades highlighted the strength of the women’s distance and middle distance program. For the past four meets, a different facet of the entire Duke squad has had the opportunity to shine in helping the Blue Devils compile one of the most impressive openings to the outdoor season in recent memory.
Competing together at the ACC Championships next weekend, the Blue Devils will look to make an impressive combined effort to move up the leaderboard after both the men's and women's teams barely missed out on a top-three finish last season.