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Two program records, 9 event wins highlight Battle of the Blues for Duke track and field

<p>Senior Anima Banks posted the fourth-fastest time in program history in the 1,500 meters Saturday.</p>

Senior Anima Banks posted the fourth-fastest time in program history in the 1,500 meters Saturday.

With a mild breeze, sunny skies and a home crowd on hand, Duke set two school records and won nine events in its second outdoor meet of the year.

The Blue Devils finished second in the women’s competition and third in the men’s against North Carolina and Michigan Saturday afternoon in the second and final day of the Battle of the Blues at Morris Williams Track and Field Stadium. 

The Blue Devil women finished with 68 points, 15 shy of the Wolverines, and the men finished with 40.5 points, 42.5 fewer than the victorious Tar Heels, but senior Megan Clark and sophomore Maddy Price each set program records in the pole vault and 200 meters, respectively.

“Overall, for the day, it was a great track meet,” Duke director of track and field Norm Ogilvie said. “Even if we’re coming up on the short end of the score sometimes—like to me it’s amazing—we had three guys run under 1:51 [in the 800 meters], and we came away with exactly two team points. But you can’t hang your head when you’re running the fastest you’ve ever run.”

Once again, Clark raised the bar thanks to her improving technique, which she said has been related to increasing her distance from the pit during takeoff. Clark and fellow Blue Devil sophomore Madison Heath were the only two competitors to successfully clear at least 13 feet at this weekend’s meet.

Heath eventually vaulted 13 feet, 9 1/4 inches, but Clark kept going by herself, taking breaks between attempts to catch her breath and shatter more records. The 2016 NCAA indoor silver medalist ultimately broke a program and facility record, set the best mark in the country so far this season and tied for the sixth-best outdoor mark in NCAA history with a vault of 14 feet, 9 1/2 inches.

“We don’t get a lot of home meets, so when we have them, we like to take advantage of them,” Clark said. “I’ve been changing a lot of things since NCAAs…so I was happy with the result, I was a lot happier with the technique that I had this week.”

Aiming to set an overall personal best, Clark was unable to clear the 15 feet, 1 inch bar in any of her three attempts.

Price—who set a program record in the 100 meters at the Raleigh Relays last week—came from behind in the 100-meter event to nearly catch first-place finisher Cindy Ofili but came up short by 0.08 seconds. Price bounced back quickly in the 200 meters, though, setting another program record with a time of 23.48 seconds to finish second in that event as well, just 0.02 seconds behind Ofili.

“It was really helpful to have someone really fast running against me and kind of push me to the finish there,” Price said of her program-record sprint. “[I] definitely wish I could have got her at the end, but still a really good race, and I’m super happy with the time.”

Senior Anima Banks added to the strong finishes on the women’s side. Although the Mamaroneck, N.Y., native normally runs the 800 meters, she posted the fourth-best time in program history in the 1,500 meters Saturday with a time of 4:19.99.

On the men’s side, graduate student Shaun Thompson finished in second place in the 3,000-meter steeplechase, even though Saturday was Thompson’s first time running the event in two years and he practiced it just once in the week leading up. Coming off the second-fastest 10,000-meter mark in the country last week, Thompson automatically qualified for the ACC Outdoor Championships with an 8:58:56 finish.

Saturday’s event was only the third time Duke has ever hosted an event at the complex, which opened last year. The environment was energetic, with North Carolina and Michigan fans in attendance and several rows of fans standing near fences bordering the track. The scoreboard also posted team scores throughout the day, which Ogilvie said is not the case at every meet and is quite helpful to the athletes.

The Blue Devil women fed off the crowd to nearly catch the Wolverines late in the contest, having trailed by at least 10 points for most of the day. Senior Olivia Anderson—running her first steeplechase of the season—finished in first place with a 10:21.86 mark, setting a personal best and posting the program’s fifth-fastest time. Anderson also qualified for the ACC championships with her performance and defeated runner-up Claire Borchers of Michigan by nearly eight seconds.

“That was really special because Michigan distance is known as the best in the country,” Ogilvie said. “I remember last year when she did her first steeplechase at roughly this week, and she’s improved so much.”

With Duke trailing 65-58 with two races left, though, the Wolverines sealed the meet by finishing first through third in the 3,000 meters. In the day’s penultimate event, the Duke women’s 4x400 medley relay team opened a sizeable lead in the second leg before Price sealed a win in the event with a team time of 3:40.21.

“We all kind of love [the 4x400], even at the end of the day,” Price said. “That was my first 400 of the outdoor season, so it felt a little bit longer than the 100, I was kind of getting tired at the end there, but always good to bring it home, especially at home, too.”

One of Duke’s other dominant performances came in the men’s high jump, in which sophomore Colt Sessions took first place with a jump of 6 feet, 10 1/4 inches, senior Carl Heinz finished second with a 6 feet, 9 inch leap and freshman Rivers Ridout tied for third after an effort of 6 feet, 8 inches. Those results came on the heels of a victory in the women’s discus, as junior Amarie Bremel won the event with a toss of 148 feet, 8 inches on her sixth and final attempt.

The Blue Devils also won the women’s shot put, as redshirt junior Urina Harrell won with a throw of 48 feet, 3/4 inches. And freshman Domonique Panton’s 40 feet, 2 inch triple jump was both the best score on the day and the second-best all time for the Blue Devils.

After a slew of strong individual performances, Duke returns to action next weekend at the Spec Towns Invitational in Athens, Ga., and in three weeks will host its second and final event of the year at the Duke Invitational.

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