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Duke track and field braves poor weather conditions in Duke invite

The weather wasn’t kind to Duke this past weekend, but the Blue Devils fought through that wind and rain both Friday and Saturday en route to an array of record-breaking performances.

In the annual Duke Invitational held at Morris Williams Stadium, two Blue Devil athletes posted top-five program marks—including one school record—while 30 others finished in the top 10 in their respective events. It was also Senior Day for both the men’s and women’s track teams, with the program honoring 15 seniors. But mother nature decided to make life difficult in the final home meet for those respective athletes, despite Earth Day looming just around the corner.

“You just have to compete sometimes,” director of track and field Norm Ogilvie said regarding the inclement weather. “You do the best you can. An illustration of how windy it was—during the high jump, the bar would just blow right off the stand. So they had to get volunteers to hold onto the bar until the last possible second, and then they would let go to make it legal. But yeah, that was pretty traumatic winds. There were gusts 30 miles an hour pretty much most of [Friday] morning.”

Senior Stefani Vukajlovic provided the highlight of the weekend, breaking her own school record in the hammer throw with a mark of 213-1 (64.95 meters). The Bosnia-Herzegovina native bested her previous record of 205-10 (62.73 meters)—set at the High Point VertKlasse Meet just a month ago—on four different throws under the Friday rain, her final heave proving to be the furthest. With the toss, Vukajlovic now holds the 10th-best mark in the country this season.

But the hammer throw wasn’t the only event with an all-time Duke performance Saturday. While Vukajlovic impressed on the field, sophomore Lauren Hoffman turned heads on the track, winning the 400-meter hurdles with a time of 58.51 seconds—fourth-best in Blue Devil history. The Haymarket, Va. native’s time places her 16th nationally.

“I think the best Duke performance of the weekend was Stefani Vukajlovic,” Ogilvie said. “Ironically it happened in the rain on Friday morning...the next best performance [was] Lauren Hoffman in the 400 hurdles...she is on a roll right now, running really, really well.”

But it wasn’t all record-setting times for the Blue Devils. After breaking the school record in the 400-meter hurdles at the Battle of the Blues two weeks ago, senior India Lowe had to stop in the middle of the women’s 4x100-meter relay due to hamstring tightness. Duke was one of three schools not to finish the event.

“Probably the downer of the day was India Lowe...she stopped to try and protect [her hamstring],” Ogilvie said. “We could not finish the 4x100 and we might have to sit India out for a little bit. We do not know the extent of her injury but we have to be cautious with her because she is very, very good.” 

While the vast majority of the events over the two-day meet suffered from either the high winds or drizzling rain, Saturday night’s 5000-meter run saw nearly perfect conditions. As a result, the men’s 5000-meter finished as one of the fastest long-distance races Duke has been a part of this season, with the leader finishing in a blitzing 13:38.

That fast pace allowed three Blue Devil runners—Danton Randall, Nikhil Pulimood and Paul Dellinger—to post both personal bests and ACC qualifying times. This came after Sara Platek, Clara Savchik and Michaela Reinhart had already all ran ACC qualifying times in the women’s 5000-meter just before.

“The conditions [Saturday] night for the 5000s were almost perfect,” Ogilvie said. “Because the wind had died down to nothing—virtually no wind at all—and the temperature was nice and cool which distance runners like...they knew that they were ready to put out some good performances.”

Another notable effort came from junior Matt Wisner, who finished second in the men’s 800-meter run with a time 1:49.32. That marks as the third fastest time in the ACC this season, matching up with Wisner’s third-place finish in the 800-meter during the indoor track season.

Junior Keigan Lenihan took first place in the men’s javelin competition, while Cassie Martin and Erin Marsh also added first-place finishes in women’s high jump and 100-meter hurdles respectively. 

Next, Duke will split its team between the Penn Relays and the Virginia Grand Prix. The Penn Relays is the oldest track meet in the country, with its 125th rendition starting Thursday at Franklin Field in front of 100,000 spectators across three days. Two weekends later come the ACC championships, with NCAA regionals beginning another two weeks after that. 

“It is great exposure,” Ogilvie said of the Penn Relays. “It is on national TV and all that. Kids get very hyped up about performing in such a setting because a lot of track meets are competing behind a curtain—no one sees it. But this is definitely big-time college sports.”


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