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Duke track and field claims 5 event wins at Spec Towns Invitational

<p>Senior Anima Banks continued her dominance in the outdoor season this weekend, winning both the mile and 800 meters at the Spec Towns Invitational.</p>

Senior Anima Banks continued her dominance in the outdoor season this weekend, winning both the mile and 800 meters at the Spec Towns Invitational.

With windy conditions wreaking havoc in the field events, the Blue Devils stepped up on the track to provide the weekend’s highlight performances.

Duke wrapped up the two-day Spec Towns Invitational in Athens, Ga., Saturday with five event wins and 24 top-five finishes—all but two of which were contributed by a Blue Devil runner.

“The wind was a big story down in Athens both days. It kind of changed the outlook on the meet,” Duke director of track and field Norm Ogilvie said. “It seemed unlikely that anybody was going to get an improvement on their performances from the first two weekends [of the outdoor season]. We instructed our athletes to go after event wins.”

Senior Anima Banks proved to be up to the challenge, claiming dominant victories in both the 1,500 and 800 meters.

Banks led the field and three of her teammates across the line in the women’s elite mile, outpacing Valeska Halamicek of Missouri through the final 800 meters for the win in 4:22.10—a new outdoor career best. Senior Olivia Anderson nearly took second but finished just five one-hundredths of a second behind Halamicek in 4:26.64, good for an automatic qualifying time for the ACC outdoor championships. Her classmate Madison Granger finished fourth in 4:27.82 and freshman Kim Hallowes rounded out the top five in 4:29.35.

Winning her second event of the weekend, Banks cruised to the finish in the 800 meters three seconds before Halamicek and stopped the clock at 2:06.64. Anderson matched her third-place finish from Friday in the shorter distance, finishing behind Halamicek in 2:11.24.

“[Duke assistant coach Christine] Engel asked her to go out hard and see how well she could hang on,” Ogilvie said. “She went out the first quarter in roughly 60 seconds and came back with a 66-second 400 [meters]. She won by a huge margin, so it was almost like a time trial for her in that race and showed how good she is even against good competition.”

Graduate student Colleen Schmidt and junior Gina Daniel found similar success in the 3,000 meters. Schmidt earned her first win since the 2014 season with a time of 9:51.08, and Daniel was just shy of a runner up-finish, crossing the line in 9:55.24—less than a half-second behind the Tigers’ Kate Smith.

In the men’s 3,000 meters, junior Stephen Shine and sophomore Josiah Hanko paced each other to a one-two finish. Shine pulled away from the field in the final laps for the win in 8:24.98, and Hanko recorded a new personal best in 8:31.90.

Duke's strong showing on the track continued Saturday—this time courtesy of the sprint and middle-distance groups.

For the third time in as many weeks, sophomore Maddy Price recorded a new personal best time to move up Duke’s all-time list. The Hillsborough, Calif., native had clocked new school records in the 100-meter dash at the Raleigh Relays meet March 25 and the 200 meters at the Battle of the Blues last weekend. Finishing second in the 400 meters with a time of 53.70 seconds, Price recorded the second-fastest time by a Blue Devil in the event in program history.

Sophomore Kyle Carrozza picked up Duke’s final event win of the weekend in the men’s steeplechase, crossing the line in 9:27.77—nearly five seconds ahead of the next runner.

Dylan Murphy raced a close pack for a runner-up finish in the 800 meters, crossing the line just six one-hundredths of a second off his career best of 1:51.00 and seven-tenths off the win.

“The best men’s performer of the weekend was Dylan,” Ogilvie said. “He ran a very good race considering the wind, and it was only slightly slower than he ran last week. He has really run well for the past two weekends in a row and established himself as Duke’s best half-miler.”

Duke’s lone top-five showings in the field events came in the men’s high jump—with seven athletes competing in the event, the Blue Devils claimed fourth through seventh. Freshman Rivers Ridout and sophomore Colt Sessions both cleared 6 feet, 6 3/4 inches, but Ridout won the tiebreaker thanks to his fewer attempts at the height.

But standout field performer Megan Clark and Madison Heath were less fortunate in Saturday’s pole vault. Passing on early heights to conserve energy, Heath entered the competition with the bar set at 13 feet, 3 1/2 inches and Clark at 13 feet, 9 1/4 inches, but neither could clear in three attempts. For the first time this season, freshman Nati Sheppard posted Duke’s top mark—12 feet, 9 1/2 inches for sixth place.

“Our best athlete on the team was a victim of the wind,” Ogilvie said. “In the pole vault, even the best in the country can get tossed around up in the air. It doesn’t do Megan any good to go in early and win jumping 13 [feet], 6 [inches], but when you get wicked crosswinds, it’s tough to vault high.”

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