In the Blue Devils’ biggest home meet of the season, Duke’s women defended their home track well against competition from up and down the East Coast.
The Blue Devil middle-distance runners shined with victories in the women’s 800 meters and the women’s 4-x-400 meter relay to highlight the Duke Invitational Friday and Saturday at Morris Williams Stadium. Duke’s competitors had to deal with dramatic changes in the weather during the meet—a hot Friday followed by a cold and windy Saturday that featured a one-hour lightning delay.
“When we started the meet, it was summer, and now it’s winter, so I guess it’s been going on for months,” Blue Devil director of track and field Norm Ogilvie said Saturday. “It’s tough to high jump in these conditions, tough to run fast, but some guys persevered through it. It’s all about attitude.”
The meet attracted 2,000 athletes in its third year at the new stadium after it was held at Wallace Wade Stadium for decades.
“It’s why we build this venue is to have meets like this,” Ogilvie said. “I anticipate that it will continue to grow as word of mouth goes, ‘Oh yeah, Duke’s got a great facility.’ It really is a superb facility for track and field.”
Duke claimed three first-place finishes in the women’s competition, punctuated by the last event of the meet, when freshman Brittany Aveni, sophomores Sydnei Murphy and MacKenzie Kerr and senior Madeline Kopp set a facility record with a time of 3:42.96, almost 10 seconds ahead of second-place East Carolina.
Aveni won the 800 meters a day earlier with a personal-best time of 2:06.61, and sophomore Kim Hallowes trailed close behind her in fourth place at 2:08.33. Hallowes then finished third in the women’s 1,500 meters Saturday with a personal-best 4:27.87, about a half-second behind classmate Liz Lansing—who came in second place.
Junior Madison Heath cleared 13 feet, 10 inches in the pole vault to take home first place and was joined by freshmen Laura Marty and Chesney Ward and sophomore Nati Sheppard in the top six.
In the other field events, sophomore Stefani Vukajlovic broke her own school record with a hammer throw of 195 feet, 7 inches—good for fourth place in the meet—and senior Christine Streisel finished second in the javelin with a throw of 146 feet, 3 inches.
“The Duke men and the Duke women both had solid performances. We’ll be good. At the ACC level, our women’s team is a little bit better,” Ogilvie said. “We probably confirmed a lot of what we already knew this weekend, and there were enough alterations to the all-time list that I feel good about the weekend.”
The Blue Devils also impressed in the sprints, with the 4-x-100-meter relay team of Murphy, Kopp, Kerr and sophomore India Lowe clocking in at 45.16, taking second place behind East Carolina. Murphy added a fourth-place finish in the 100 meters and 11th place in the 200 meters to cap a busy meet.
Domonique Panton qualified for the 100-meter finals with a personal-best time of 11.89 seconds, but slowed down Saturday and finished in seventh place.
On the men’s side, Duke was most effective in the field events, with nine of its 15 top-10 finishes coming away from the track. Sophomore Rivers Ridout high-jumped 6 feet, 7 inches to take third place, classmate Nicholas Solfanelli finished third in the javelin with a throw of 205 feet, 7 inches and freshman Esteban Suarez tied his personal best with a clearance of 15 feet, 5 inches in the pole vault, good for third as well.
The multi-talented Jeremy McDuffie, a cornerback for the Blue Devil football team, continued to show off his speed versatility on the track with top-10 finishes in the 110-meter hurdles and the triple jump, and senior Dylan Murphy performed the best in the running events with a season-best time of 1:49.36 to finish fourth in the 800 meters Friday in his final Duke home meet.
No Blue Devil finished in the top two in a men’s event.
“We had some great performances [Friday]. [Saturday] was a little different,” Ogilvie said. “But overall, we had some good performances, it was a good, solid tune-up weekend for us, got some ACC marks.”
Duke honored its seniors Saturday and welcomed several alumni back to its home stadium to watch the meet. The Blue Devils will now hit the road for the rest of the season, beginning with the Penn Relays Thursday through Saturday in Philadelphia, where the weather is expected to be surprisingly warmer than it was to finish the meet in Durham.
“The long-range forecast for next weekend in Philadelphia is three days and 80 degrees,” Ogilvie said. “We have that to look forward to.”
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