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Duke track and field sweeps UNC at the Battle of the Blues in dramatic fashion

It was a historic day for Duke track and field.

Both the men and women won in Saturday’s dual meet against North Carolina—a first for the Blue Devils in the annual Battle of the Blues, set this year at the Morris Williams Track and Field Stadium in Durham.

“You don’t need to say much more than it’s Duke versus UNC,” said director of track and field Norm Ogilvie. “Everybody in this school knows what that rivalry means and this is the first time we’ve had a dual against UNC since I’ve been here - it’s been 29 years in the making.

“In the very beginning [of my tenure], this program wasn’t kicking it very well—I don’t think we wanted to have a dual meet with UNC. But we’ve reached the point now where we feel we can compete with them every year and this was the first time where we’ve beat both the men and the women on the same day.”

And, in typical Duke-North Carolina fashion, it came down to the very end. 

For the women, it was decided on the very last leg of their final race, the 4x400 meter relay. Junior Brittany Aveni anchored the race and began her stretch just trailing her Tar Heel counterpart. She quickly made up the ground and never looked back, securing the win in both the event with a time of 3:36:06—more than four seconds faster than North Carolina—and the meet, catapulting the Blue Devils past their rival for a final meet score of 79-75. 

“We’ve always had a good 4-by-4,” said Ogilvie. “We won the 4-by-4 last year at the Penn Relays Championship of America race. We did that with one of our all-time greats in Maddy Price, the best quarter miler we ever had. She graduated and she was here with us as a volunteer assistant coach today. But I don’t think she could’ve been prouder of the anchor leg of Brittany Aveni having to come from behind to win it. It was all on the line— [Brittany] found a way to do it.”

The men’s competition also came down to the wire and was decided in final field event, the shot put. The Tar Heels needed a perfect top-three showing to come away with the team win for the meet, but Duke’s Ben Beatty and Iyin Battle had other ideas, finishing second and third in the shot put, respectively. Their performance clinched the meet win for the Blue Devil men with a final score of 80-73.

“It turned out the shot was the very last event to end and it was kind of dramatic,” said Ogilvie. “We had the entire UNC team and the entire Duke team out there watching the shot put. The UNC guy won - we expected that, he was the ACC Indoor Champion and NCAA All-American. But our guys rallied to take second and third. It was pretty dramatic stuff and that clinched it for us.”

But the Blue Devils needed more than just heroic performances in the last events to win the meet—there were impressive performances all around. The men’s distance team went 18-0 in the 3000 steeple and 3000 meters, back-to-back events that really blew the competition open, putting Beatty and Battle in position to seal the deal. In the women’s 3000 meter, Duke swept the top three spots, securing nine vital points for the team to give the Blue Devils a shot to win it all. 

“We asked some guys to do some big things. We asked some girls to do some big things. And they all stepped up,” said Ogilvie. “And part of it is that Duke-UNC thing. They really want to beat [that] school and they had their moment tonight.”

The Blue Devils registered 42 personal bests at the meet and one school record, set by senior India Lowe in the 400-meter hurdles with a time of 57.58, breaking the previous record time of 58.35. Graduate student Charles Cooper took first place in the 1500-meters and finished second in the 800-meters. His eight individual points were the most of anyone for Duke. Also impressing was Brittany Aveni, the heroic anchor of the 4x400m relay, who won the 800m with a personal best of 2:06.49.

The Blue Devils will send a contingent to the Tennessee Relays in Knoxville, Tenn. next weekend and will return to Durham for the Duke Invite the weekend after. 


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