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Duke track and field sets numerous personal bests in final home meet

Alec Kunzweiler won the steeplechase in his final home meet Saturday.
Alec Kunzweiler won the steeplechase in his final home meet Saturday.

Competing in races stacked with professional runners in addition to some of the top college athletes on the East Coast, Duke held its own and shattered several personal records in its final home meet of the season.

The Blue Devils finished first in the meet in seven events and had the top college athlete in three more events, with the men's middle distance runners in particular delivering their best performances of the season. Matt Wisner finished in fourth place and first among collegiate runners with a personal-best time of 1:48.04 in the 800 meters, and Duke also had the top two collegiates in the men's 1,500 meters.

"The competition definitely brings out the best in us," Blue Devil director of track and field Norm Ogilvie said. "[Wisner] had never broken 1:50 outdoors before—he had run a 1:49.6 indoors—but 1:48-flat is another level. That’s really good. We had a number of instances where despite there being really good pros or post-collegiates in the field, the Duke kid was the top collegiate."

In the 1,500 meters, senior Jordan Burton and freshman Alex Miley were pushed by two professionals from the District Track Club who finished first and second, and the Blue Devils were the next two runners to cross the line with times of 3:46.88 and 3:47.65, respectively. Both Burton and Miley broke their previous personal bests by at least three seconds.

"Ten months ago, Miley was a 4:15 miler. Now, he’s a 4:05 miler, so I was kidding him, he’s knocking off a second a month, but the truth is, it’s more than that because he’s knocked all that time off in just the last couple months," Ogilvie said. "His is the biggest improvement I’ve seen in my 28 years at Duke in the mile by a freshman. We may have had a freshman that’s run faster, but nobody knocked that much time off, so he’s in a really good place."

The Duke men to finish in first place were senior Alex Kunzweiler in the 3,000-meter steeplechase and freshman C.J. Ambrosio in his heat in the 5,000 meters Friday, though Ambrosio did not compete in the faster 5,000-meter race that included several pros Saturday night.

For Kunzweiler, it was a repeat victory in the steeplechase after he won it two weeks ago in the Battle of the Blues in his first time competing in the event of his career. Kunzweiler and all of the Blue Devils' senior were honored at their last home meet Saturday afternoon.

"Clearly they were inspired and they were very happy," Ogilvie said. "It was just a great atmosphere, certainly our most successful Duke Invitational since we moved to Morris Williams Stadium."

Junior Rivers Ridout was also the top collegiate finisher in the high jump, topping his personal record by leaping 7 feet, 0.5 inches.

On the women's side, the usual suspects starred again, as senior Madeline Price won the 400 meters, was third in the 200 meters just behind teammate Kethlin Campbell and was part of Duke's first-place 4x100-meter relay team.

The Blue Devils had three other top finishers on the women's side. Junior India Lowe won the 400-meter hurdles by more than a full second with a time of 58.77 seconds, senior Madison Heath took first in the pole vault—which featured four Duke competitors in the top six—and the Blue Devils barely held off Morgan State and George Mason at the finish line in the 4x400-meter relay Saturday night, with some of their top runners resting for the Penn Relays next weekend.

After competing in Philadelphia, Duke will have a two-week reprieve to prepare for the ACC championships May 10-12.

"It’ll be interesting when two weeks from now we’re limited to 30 men and 30 women on each roster, and right now, we’ve probably got more kids than that that are capable of competing in the ACC, so we’ll have to make some cuts," Ogilvie said. "It’s a good problem to have, but that’s why we run these meets, is to give everybody a fair shot to compete against the best."


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