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Duke track and field looks for date to indoor championships at Valentine Invitational

<p>Senior Anima Banks has until March 2 to hold a top-12 time to qualify for the NCAA Indoor Championships March 11-12.</p>

Senior Anima Banks has until March 2 to hold a top-12 time to qualify for the NCAA Indoor Championships March 11-12.

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, but a small contingent of Blue Devils are aiming to score a date to the national championships in Hoover, Ala., March 11-12.

Duke will head to Boston to compete in the David Hemery Valentine Invitational at the Boston University Track and Tennis Center Friday, looking to move up in the national standings for NCAA championship berths.

Senior Anima Banks will race in her signature 800 meters, and the sprint squad will take to the track for the 4-x-400 meter relay. Banks will need to hold a top-16 time and the relay a top-12 time by the end of the qualifying period March 2 to punch their tickets to Hoover.

“Anima just missed qualifying for nationals last year, so that’s obviously her goal for this year,” Duke director of track and field Norm Ogivlie said. “She already had a great run against the some of the best collegiate and professional runners, but we are heading up to Boston trying to get that time down more.”

Banks came up short of advancing to the 2015 national championships in Fayetteville, Ark., posting the 26th-fastest time of 2:05.65 at the ACC championships in late February. The Mamaroneck, N.Y., native has already eclipsed her personal best from last year’s conference championships this season, clocking a time of 2:06.54 at the Camel City Invitational Jan. 29. Banks is currently 12th in the national standings for the 800 meters, but will look to move up the rankings with a new best time Friday to solidify her chances of a top-16 qualification.

Last season’s final invited time was 2:04.86, run by then-senior Becca Deloache of Georgetown.

Three Hoya harriers have posted times faster than Banks this season—top-ranked Sabrina Southerland ran 2:03.10 at the Villanova Invitational Feb. 6, Andrea Keklak ranks sixth with her time of 2:04.38 from the Penn State National meet Jan. 29 and Emma Keenan record the 11th-fast time of 2:05.06 at Villanova. But the Blue Devil will have her chance to toe the line with them Friday with hopes that the competition will push her under the 2:05 mark.

Banks pulled away from the field unchallenged in the back 400 meters at the Armory Collegiate Invitational Saturday, winning in 2:06.48, but was disappointed with the time.

“[Anima] won the 800 with authority in New York,” Ogilvie said. “But the time wasn’t as fast as what’s going to get her to nationals, so she needs to take another crack at it.”

Duke’s relay squad will have big shoes to fill after last year’s group of then-seniors Lauren Hansson and Elizabeth Kerpon, current sophomore Maddy Price and current junior Madeline Kopp advanced to the national championships with a time of 3:34.00, where the Blue Devils bested their own school record and took sixth overall in 3:32.56.

Price and Kopp return to headline this season’s effort, but Ogilvie and his coaching staff have been drawing from a pool of potential runners to take the spots of the two graduates in the opening meets of the 2016 campaign.

Banks joined Price, Kopp and freshman Mackenzie Kerr to post the 32nd-fastest time in the country so far this season at the Armory Invitational, crossing the line in a combined time of 3:39.80. The Blue Devils will need to shave off more than a second per leg to be in good shape for a postseason berth.

“That track in Boston is ideally suited for the 400- and 800-meter events, and the meet is very competitive,” Ogilvie said. “There are some events you can’t race every weekend, but the 400 and 800 are [two races] that you can, and they’re trying to get in good position for nationals before the ACC meet.”

The rest of the squad will take a weekend off before splitting three ways for the Millrose Games in New York, Virginia Tech Challenge in Blacksburg, Va., and the USC Invitational in Winston-Salem, N.C., next weekend. 


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