As the old saying goes, records are meant to be broken. And when it comes to relays, it’s safe to say that speed kills.
The Blue Devils had a busy weekend at the Virginia Invitational, but nothing stood out more than the men’s and women’s 4x100-meter relay squads. Both units set program records, as the men and women surged to the top of the leaderboard with times of 40.82 and 44.28 seconds, respectively.
“Getting two school records on both the men and the women was a great day,” interim head coach Shawn Wilbourn said. “The women won, and ran not only a school record, but one of the fastest times in the ACC and one of the fastest times in the east region and country."
Recent trends have indicated that Duke is turning the 4x100m event into a strength, and this weekend was more of the same. Recruiting and development, while obviously key for every aspect of a track and field program, have especially been the name of the game for the Blue Devils in the shorter sprints.
“We think that it’s an area that we can be good at. We have been good in the longer relays, the [4x400m], and now we’re starting to venture more into the shorter sprints, the [4x100m],” Wilbourn said. “It’s just the process of becoming a more balanced program, being competitive in all of the events and not just a subsection of the events.”
For the men, sophomore Joseph Laster, senior Miles Mingo, graduate student Alex Schwedt and sophomore Ezra Mellinger made up the 4x100m team, breaking the previous school record set back in 1995. This group has been knocking on the doorstep of the 26-year-old mark since coming up just .01 seconds short at the Raleigh Relays last month.
On the women’s side of the event, sophomore Halle Bieber and graduate students Brittany Aveni, Elena Brown-Soler and Cha’Mia Rothwell shattered the school record by 0.19 seconds, surpassing the 44.47-second mark set in 2018.
Still, the Blue Devil coaching staff feels like there’s even more room for growth in the relay department. From challenging weather conditions to transition mistakes, all was not smooth sailing for the Duke relay groups, making the final results that much more encouraging.
“They’re going to run even faster,” Wilbourn said. “You know, the weather wasn’t great, it was a little cool, windy, and the handoffs were not perfect. So we’re excited just about how fast we ran and the opportunity, or the possibility, to run even faster.”
The relay dominance was most definitely impressive, but Duke was not just a one-trick pony this past weekend. Sophomore Elasia Campbell, fresh off a bronze medal in the ACC Indoor Championships, posted the fifth most prolific high jump in school history to secure first in the event.
Rothwell—when she wasn’t contributing to the record-setting 4x100m relay group—excelled in the 100m hurdles once again, finishing in first at 13.32 seconds. Meanwhile, senior Erin Marsh finished runner-up in the event with a 13.41-second display of her own.
Duke even made quick work of the 400m, as Mingo and graduate student Iman Sule captured first place in the men’s and women’s competitions, respectively.
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And out on the field, redshirt senior Ben Beatty started off his spring with a bang in the hammer throw, performing his best Thor impression en route to a fifth-place finish.
All in all, the outing in Charlottesville, Va., was littered with Duke blue, and that was not lost on Wilbourn. The sheer number of accolades from the weekend is a step in the right direction, particularly as the calendar shifts closer and closer to the ACC Championships, which run from May 13-15.
“The biggest highlight from this weekend is just how many top-five performances we had across the board,” Wilbourn said. “You know, we had probably close to 10 top-five performances when you look at all the events we contested this weekend.”