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Battle of the Blues to kick off outdoor season for Duke track and field

The Blue Devils will host North Carolina and Michigan this weekend

<p>Senior Anima Banks (right) will run the women’s mile instead of her specialty, the 800 meters, which will put freshman Kim Hallowes in the two-lap race.</p>

Senior Anima Banks (right) will run the women’s mile instead of her specialty, the 800 meters, which will put freshman Kim Hallowes in the two-lap race.

Duke will not just be facing its rivals in powder blue uniforms this weekend when three teams square off for the Battle of the Blues title with a squad in navy mixing up the usual Tobacco Road matchup.

Kicking off the regular season of the outdoor campaign, the Blue Devils will host North Carolina and Michigan Friday and Saturday at the Morris Williams Track and Field Stadium for the first competition between the three programs.

“[We asked Michigan] strictly on the color of their uniforms,” Duke director of track and field Norm Ogilvie joked. “I kind of kid about this, but one of my thoughts was having another blue school. But the big thing is this is an ACC-Big Ten matchup, and Michigan is a big name in the Big Ten. This could be a classic annual matchup.”

The No. 22 Wolverine women are the third-ranked Big Ten squad in the first poll of the outdoor season behind No. 16 Ohio State and No. 20 Michigan State—the 2015 outdoor conference champions. On the men’s side, the Blue Devils will have their hands full with the No. 17 Tar Heel squad.

Duke will rely on its strengths in the women’s jumps and men’s throws to keep pace with both ranked squads in team scoring.

On the women’s side, 2015 outdoor NCAA championship veterans Megan Clark and Teddi Maslowski will look to earn their first wins of the outdoor season in the pole vault and long jump, respectively. Both senior leaders hold the school record in their signature event with Clark’s highest clearance at 14 feet, 9 inches and Maslowski’s farthest jump at 20 feet, 8 1/2 inches.

For the redshirt senior throwing pair of Stephen Boals and Thomas Lang, wins in the shot put and javelin could be key to Duke’s score. Lang sat out the indoor season and threw in his first competition since June 2015 at the Raleigh Relays last weekend, hurling the javelin 214 feet, 10 inches. Both throwers may need to produce new season-bests to stay at the top of the scoreboard.

“Every event will be good,” Ogilvie said. “In some events Duke has the upper hand, others Michigan or [North Carolina]. But in every event, there are two schools with good athletes.”

Middle-distance harrier Elizabeth Whelan will likely headline the Tar Heels’ effort for the title as she holds the squad’s fastest time in the 800 and 1,500 meters, ranking in the nation’s top 30 in both events based on times posted within the last calendar year.

Although she specializes in the 800 meters, senior Anima Banks will toe the line in the women’s mile against Michigan’s Shannon Osika and Laura Addison, leaving freshman Kim Hallowes to contend with Whelan in the two-lap race.

“Anima is still going to focus on the 800 meters during the outdoor season, but it’s good to run a 1,500 because it makes you stronger. Plus Anima is the strongest miler at this school, as evidenced by her anchor leg on the [distance medley relay],” Ogilvie said. “We are trying to strategically put her in a good place, and spread out Anima, Kim Hallowes and Olivia Anderson in different events.“

Anderson—who anchored the distance medley relay at the indoor national championships in Banks’ stead after the Mamaroneck, N.Y., native advanced to the 800-meter finals—will also not be competing in her signature mile but will run the 3,000-meter steeplechase instead.

Graduate student Shaun Thompson will compete in his first steeplechase since the 2014 season against two of the nation’s best. Wolverine Mason Ferlic holds the No. 3 time in the last calendar year with his mark of 8:35.45, and his teammate Connor Mora ranks 12th in 8:45.96. Thompson’s best time—third on Duke’s all-time list—is 8:58.04.

“Those Michigan guys are really good—All-American level,” Ogilvie said. “This will be good for Shaun to get qualified for regionals. He’s a good steepler—one of the best in Duke history. If he can hang with them for the first half of the race, that will pull him away from everybody else.”

Sophomore Kyle Carrozza made his season debut in the event at the Raleigh Relays, shaving more than a minute off his career best with a performance of 9:22.20, and will look to drop more time in Saturday’s tough field.

Alec Kunzweiler will aim to pick up more points for the men with a strong performance in the mile. The junior has also improved dramatically since the 2015 outdoor campaign, posting a new career best at the Raleigh meet of 3:48.20 and anchoring the 4-x-1,500-meter relay to a win against Michigan State. 

Only one event will be contested Friday afternoon—the men’s and women’s hammer throws. The remainder of the field events will start at 1:30 p.m. Saturday with the women’s discus, and the women’s 4-x-100-meter relay is slated to toe the line at 4 p.m. to kick off the track events.

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