As Duke rounds the corner for the final stretch of the regular season, the squad will have the cheers of a home crowd in its ears one last time.
The Blue Devils will host the two-day Duke Invitational Friday and Saturday at Morris Williams Track and Field Stadium, welcoming representatives from more than 20 schools—nearly a threefold increase from the 2015 event by the same name. But because of this year’s final exam schedule, the invitational this weekend will take the unscored format of the Duke Twilight meet usually contested in May.
“Back when we held the Twilight meet in Wallace Wade, we got as many as 2,000 athletes participating,” Duke director of track and field Norm Ogilvie said. “Now with the change in weekend, we have around 700 athletes coming. But we hope once everybody sees our new facility, we can build this meet to be one of the biggest on the East Coast.”
The Duke Invitational April 10 and 11, 2015, marked the grand opening of Morris Williams Track and Field Stadium. The Blue Devil women claimed the team title, outscoring five other squads—including three ACC opponents—and the men finished third. Although this year’s contest will not be scored, the Duke athletes will aim to put a Blue Devil name in the meet record books for every event.
On the women’s side, Duke holds seven of the 18 records standing for this meet, and a few more may be within reach on the track this weekend.
North Carolina’s Elizabeth Whelan holds the meet and facility record in the women’s 800 meters with a time of 2:05.54, but Duke’s top middle-distance runner will not lead the charge to break it. Senior Anima Banks will compete in the 400 meters, and freshman Kim Hallowes will step in as the top-seeded Blue Devil in the 800 meters Friday. Hallowes will also run the 1,500 meters Saturday.
Banks ran her personal-best and Duke’s fourth-fastest time in the mile at the Battle of the Blues April 2 in 4:19.99, finishing just behind Michigan’s Shannon Osika in 4:18.52—a new facility record. The Mamaroneck, N.Y., native will get a second chance at leaving her name on the Morris Williams record board Saturday.
“Anima will essentially be working both ends of her 800 this weekend,” Ogilvie said. “She will be working on more of the speed with the 400 Friday and the endurance with the mile Saturday. She has a big race coming up next weekend.”
Banks will compete in a heat loaded with Duke distance runners as only Colleen Schmidt and Gina Daniel are not entered in the event. Schmidt will be the lone Blue Devil toeing the line for the 5,000 meters and Daniel will represent the squad in the 3,000-meter steeplechase.
Duke has also stacked its women’s 4-x-100-meter relay, combining the talents of India Lowe, Teddi Maslowski, Madeline Kopp and Maddy Price. Price has compiled an impressive season to date—breaking the team records in the 100 and 200 meters after setting the 400-meter school record as a freshman in 2015—and will look to anchor the relay to a new Duke Invitational top time. Clemson won the event last year in 44.58 seconds.
On the men’s side, the Blue Devils will be missing their top harrier in this weekend’s lineup. A week after posting the nation’s top time in the 10,000 meters at the Mt. Sac Relays—crossing the finish line in 28:47.48 to set a new school record—graduate student Shaun Thompson will rest before heading to Philadelphia to compete in the shorter distance races at the Penn Relays.
Junior Chaz Hawkins will look to step up as Duke’s star on the track in Thompson’s stead. Hawkins has recorded the top two times by a Blue Devil this season in the 100- and 400-meter dashes, with both efforts coming as part of his personal-best decathlon performance at the last weekend. The sprint and multi-event specialist will run the 200 meters for the first time this outdoor season but will also be a contender in two field events—the pole vault and discus.
This weekend's meet is one of Duke’s final two opportunities to earn qualifying marks for the ACC championships in Tallahassee, Fla., May 13-15 and the NCAA Southeast regional championships in Jacksonville, Fla., May 26-28.
“The goal for this meet is to run faster, jump higher and throw farther—I know it sounds cliché,” Ogilvie said. “We have guys we want to get qualified for ACCs coming up or for the regional meet in May, so this is a really important meet for us. I’m looking forward to some good performances.”
The Duke Invitational will start with the women’s hammer throw Friday at noon, and the men’s 110-meter hurdles will kick off events on the track at 1 p.m.
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