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Duke distance runners headline home meet

More than 2,000 runners, jumpers and throwers will gather this weekend in Wallace Wade Stadium for the largest Duke Invitational in the track meet’s 17-year history.

The quality of competition is expected to be top notch as athletes from 78 schools and a host of unattached professional athletes compete.

“Certainly some of the big teams will be here,” head coach Norm Ogilvie said. “We have a record number of entries, plus the quality of the entrants is very high too.”

Duke’s Shannon Rowbury will face off against three of the nations top 1,500-meter runners Friday evening. Rowbury, who placed second in the mile at the NCAA Indoor Championships, will run against the third, fourth and fifth-place finishers from the same race. With the talented competition and a top-seeded time of 4:15, the race has the potential to topple the current meet record of 4:15.01, which was set in 1996 by professional runner Kate Fonshell.

“I’m going to approach the race like any other,” Rowbury said of the possibility of setting the meet record. “I definitely think that I’m in good enough shape to run that fast, and if the conditions are good and the race goes well, then I think it is feasible.”

Men’s distance runners Nick Schneider and Chris Spooner are among the favorites in the 1,500 and 3,000-m runs, Ogilvie said. Schneider set the meet record in the three-kilometer race last year with a time of 8:16 but faces stiffer competition this year with several professional runners who have previously broken the eight-minute mark at the distance. Dan Wilson, a former Connecticut sub-four-minute miler, is the clear favorite in the event.

“Nick is hoping to run faster [than last year],” Ogilvie said. “That could be the best men’s race of the weekend.”

The meet begins at noon Friday with the start of the field events. Duke’s Debra Vento will try to defend her high jump title from last year. Two weeks ago Vento tied her personal best with a jump of 1.83 meters, and now the sophomore will set her sights on the meet record of 1.84 meters, which will be an attainable goal if the conditions are good.

Former Olympic trialists Jason Smoots and Chris Lukezic will compete in the 100-meter dash and the 800-meter run, respectively. Smoots is a former North Carolina Central University sprinter who specializes in the 60-meter dash, and Lukezic is a junior at Georgetown and primarily runs the 1,500-meters. Laura Gerraughty, a 2004 Olympian in the shot put, will compete in the hammer throw.

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