Duke converted the momentum from from a stellar indoor season into a successful weekend at its first outdoor meet of the season.
Redshirt sophomore Stephen Boals earned victories in shot put and discus to headline a strong Blue Devil performance at the Carolina Relays that featured eight first-place finishes. The two-day event took place Friday and Saturday in Chapel Hill, N.C., and featured a slew of instate competition including Triangle schools North Carolina and N.C State as well as UNC Pembroke.
“It was a great start to the outdoor season,” Duke associate head coach Shawn Willbourn said. “For the kids that have been off since the ACC Indoor Championships, this meet was a great chance to open up their seasons and see where they are at this time of the year. A lot of them passed with flying colors, so we’re very happy.”
Duke registered five first-place finishes Friday behind a sweep of the men and women’s javelin events. Sophomore Christine Streisel took the women’s crown with a mark of 47.44 meters and redshirt junior Thomas Lang finished atop the men’s leaderboard, edging out North Carolina's Houston Summers with a mark of 66.30 meters. Both Streisel and Lang were competing for the first time since the 2014 season.
Junior Maddie Morrow notched Duke’s only win of the meet in jumps Friday, beating out Wolfpack leaper Amara Bell with a jump of 1.62 meters in the high jump. The North Canton, Ohio, went on to clear three more heights, peaking at 1.73 meters.
The Blue Devils got their biggest boost Friday from Boals’ dominance in throws. The Loomis, Calif., native won his first gold of the day in the shot put—mustering a 17.52 meter heave to clinch the contest—before notching a win in the discus with a 50.50 meter toss. The outing was Boals’ first since breaking his own school record en route to a earning a bronze medal at the ACC Indoor Championships two weeks ago.
“For someone like [Boals], just learning to compete and win is important,” Willbourn said. “A lot of times you’ll get into meets and you’ll go lower yourself down to the level of competition instead of raising yourself up to the victory, so for him to get two wins is a big deal. I’m excited for what he is going to do outdoors.”
While the majority of Duke’s middle and long distance athletes were rested following the NCAA Indoor Championships last week, those who did compete made the most of the opportunity. Senior Chloe Maleski headlined the Blue Devils’ lineup on the track, winning the women’s mile with time of 5:15.49.
Sophomore Hannah Meier led the charge in the 800 meter run. The Grosse Point Farms, Mich., product used a blazing fast first lap to distance herself from the pack and take third place, crossing the finish line in 2:11.22. Meier's performance marked another step for the young athlete toward crossing the elusive sub-2:10 mark.
“Opening up as fast as [Meier] did [in the 800] was very impressive,” Willbourn said. “She’s very talented and I think her race today showed a ton of potential for her this outdoor season.”
Only a week removed from her silver-winning performance at the NCAA Indoor Championships, junior Megan Clark returned to competition Saturday to get a head start on the outdoor season. One week ago, the Fort Benning, Ga., native posted the best performance of her career, clearing five of her seven successful heights on her first attempt, setting a school record with a 4.5 meter clearance and becoming Duke’s first pole-vaulter to finish second at the NCAA Championships since Olympic pole-vaulter Jillian Schwartz did so in 2001.
Saturday, Clark continued in her winning ways with a dominant performance at the Carolina Relays, icing the contest with a 4.35-meter vault—well below the 4.5-meter mark she set the previous week. Once the title had been wrapped up, Clark had the bar raised to 4.5 meters and attempted to repeat her performance at the NCAA’s. However, this time around, the junior pole-vaulter struggled to hit her mark, faulting on three consecutive attempts.
Despite the slight setback, Willbourn—Clark’s coach—had plenty of reasons to be optimistic, noting that there is a learning curve associated with moving outside after the indoor season. By getting the pole-vaulter out competing early, Willbourn hopes that Clark will have an easier time making the necessary adjustments.
“With Indoors you don’t have to deal with the elements,” Willbourn said,” but outdoors you have to work on some technical things dealing with wind. Today we had a chance to work on those things. She looked really good and had great attempts at 4.50 [meters], her PR. No doubt she’ll made it soon and move on to jumping much higher in the future.”
The Blue Devils resume competition with the full team at the Raleigh Relays in Raleigh, N.C., next weekend.
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