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Athletes find success at Duke Invitational

While hurdles are never a part of the 1,500-meter race, sophomore Chris Spooner improvised, hurdling fallen runners to take the 1,500-meter title and qualify for the NCAA Regionals.

The tumultuous race reflected the quality of competition at the annual Duke Invitational this weekend, where the Blue Devils captured individual titles and broke school records.

Spooner started his heat ranked in fourth position and got out toward the front of the pack to begin the race. The lead group was setting a fast pace through the first two laps, but at the 1,000-meter mark disaster seemed to strike. A runner at the front of the pack fell down and tripped several trailing runners.

"A guy in front got tripped up and two guys fell," Spooner said. "We were in a big pack so we all had to hurdle to get out of the way. It made the race interesting though."

With 200 meters left another wreck brought the competitive heat from 14 runners down to seven. Spooner, who was in front of the pack got his ankles clipped but escaped, turned the last corner and exploded down the final 100 meters to take the title.

"I felt really comfortable with 200 meters to go," Spooner said. "I felt I could win, and it was nice seeing all the alumni at the finish line which really made it nice to win."

Junior Debra Vento opened the meet by winning the high jump to defend her title for the third straight year. Her jump of 5-10.75 met the NCAA Regional qualifying standard, and Vento became only the third student-athlete in Duke Invite history to earn three titles, with the chance for another title next year.

The weekend's throwing events were highlighted by a pair of similar outstanding efforts from the women's team. Sophomore Daina Pucurs capped Saturday's field events off by throwing 155-4, defending her Duke Invite title and increasing her own Duke javelin record by four and a half feet. The throw met a NCAA regional qualifying mark and improved her ACC-best mark.

Junior Kelly Reynolds won the hammer throw earlier Friday, bettering her own Duke record by two and half feet and qualifying for NCAA regionals.

The Blue Devils' men's throwing squad also found success with Mark Dellavolpe throwing 203-00 in the javelin to qualify for NCAA regionals. It was his first throw over 200 feet and moved him into second all-time in Duke history.

In the pole vault, sophomore Ian Cassidy tied for first, and his jump of 15-11 qualified him for IC4As. Sophomore Jade Ellis came in second in the triple jump but tore his Achilles Tendon in his final jump. His first jump of 49-09 still qualified him for the NCAA Regionals, but the injury will force him to undergo surgery Wednesday and redshirt the outdoor season. Sophomore Dan King ran two personal bests, qualifying for the IC4As in the 200-meter dash and running the first sub-48 second time in an open 400-meter race in 16 years at Duke.

Senior Shannon Rowbury, running unattached this spring outdoor season, destroyed the women's 1,500-meter meet record. Rowbury, who is redshirting her senior indoor and outdoor track seasons in order to return next year, has been trying new events and excelled in this race. Rowbury is expected to return next season to the track team in order to lead a strong freshman class and work on qualifying times for the Olympics, associate head coach Kevin Jermyn said.

Her time of 4:12.36 was more than seven seconds faster than the next runner and bested the previous meet record by three seconds.

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