All Shannon Rowbury could see ahead of her was the finish line. Well, that and the first-ever Penn Relays title for women’s track.
After Duke’s distance medley relay team ran second behind Arkansas for the majority of the race, Rowbury broke free of a group that included runners from North Carolina, Villanova and the Razorbacks with about 150 meters left in the race.
“Once I was halfway through the final stretch, I started to get pretty excited,” Rowbury told the Associated Press after the race. “I just kept looking for that finish line.”
The win—Duke’s first at the Penn Relays since the men’s team won the four-mile relay in 1972—was made possible by personal-best performances from the three other Blue Devil runners.
Senior Meaghan Leon started the race in front, running her 1,200 meters in 3:24.5, giving Duke a small lead over Arkansas.
Although sophomore Lindsay Owen ran a career-best 56.1 seconds in her 400- meter leg, the Blue Devils were about 20 meters behind Arkansas when she handed the baton off to senior Lauren Matic for the 800-meter section.
Running against Arkansas’ Aneita Denton, the reigning indoor national champion in the 800 meters, Matic ran the top 800-meter split in the competition by more than a full second and cut into the Razorbacks’ lead by 12 meters.
Junior Rowbury caught Arkansas miler Dacia Barr with 500 meters left in the race; Barr had slowed the pace of the final leg and North Carolina’s Erin Donahue—who Rowbury had outdueled at the ACC Championships just a week earlier—and Villanova’s Marina Muncan joined the leading group. But Rowbury was able to pull away and Duke won the relay with a time of 11:10.18.
UNC finished second, approximately a second behind and Villanova placed a close third. Barr faded down the stretch, and Arkansas was fourth, over nine seconds behind the Blue Devils.
“This is the biggest win in the history of the program,” Duke head coach Norm Ogilvie said. “It was a goal for these girls for a long time.... We thought we could win, but we knew everything had to go our way and it did.”
Duke was able to use its relay victory as a springboard to a strong performance all weekend.
The women's’ 4x1,500 relay team—featuring three of the four runners from the distance medley team—placed third. Kelly Reynolds beat her own school record in the hammer throw for the third time in four weeks. Daina Pucurs placed second among college competitors in the javelin. Two pole vaulters—Ian Cassidy and Jon Fay—recorded career outdoor highs. The men’s sprint medley relay ran the sixth-fastest time in Duke history and the men’s distance relay ran the fifth-fastest race in Duke history.
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