With the combination of a decorated graduating class taking part in its final home meet and the fact that the ACC and NCAA tournaments are fast approaching, a sense of urgency is brewing for the Blue Devils.
Duke hosted High Point, North Carolina, N.C. State and Wake Forest in the Duke Twilight meet Monday, a battle of in-state foes for one last tune up before the postseason kicks off. The event was only the second home meet of 2021 for the Blue Devils, so the juices were certainly flowing at Morris Williams Track and Field Stadium.
"Our kids really enjoy competing at home," Duke head coach Shawn Wilbourn said. "It'll be nice once the whole COVID experience is over and we can get back to having family and friends and fans at meets, that's what they really miss."
The headline going into Monday was whether the Blue Devils could bring their A-game on Senior Day. Over the last four—and even five—seasons, Duke has seen gradual improvement from what are now the most consistent performers on the roster. Plus, with the additions of 10 transfers, eight of which spent four years in the Ivy League, the Blue Devils present a suitable mix of talent and experience.
"It has bolstered our roster, it has bolstered our depth and leadership as well," Wilbourn said. "They're coming in, they're fifth-year transfers, they've gone four years at an Ivy League school, and yeah there's a level of maturity."
The usual names, such as Erin Marsh, Leigha Torino and Brittany Aveni, were part of the show on the women's side throughout the evening. Marsh and Torino took home top honors in one event apiece, as the former set a new PR in the long jump at 19-10.75 feet, while the latter sped through the 800m in 2:07.66. Aveni, on the other hand, finished first in the 100 and 200m along with being a member of the victorious 4x100 relay unit.
What stood out the most from the event, though, is the contributions from some under-the-radar athletes. With the ACC Outdoor Championships right around the corner, Duke needs all the depth it can get if it is to jump into the top five in either the men's or women's side.
One of those athletes was Rivka "Becky" Arbiv, who maximized her opportunity after the coaching staff switched her to the high jump.
"Becky Arbiv, as a senior, kind of finished really strong with a PR in the high jump today," Wilbourn said. "[She] kind of earned her spot to go to ACCs, so that was a great surprise and just a good experience all around."
When the dust settled, the Blue Devils had come out on top in 15 of the 38 events, a sign that the group is starting to round into form at the right time. However, improvement is still needed, particularly in the men's field events—an area that Duke was unable to pick up a first place finish in.
Next, the Blue Devils will suit up for ACCs, which take place in nearby Raleigh May 13-15.
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