As 2022 comes to a close, The Chronicle's sports department takes a look back at the biggest stories of the year in Duke athletics. Each day, we will review a major game, event or storyline that helped shape the course of the year for the Blue Devils.
Coming in at No. 8: Few sports at Duke are as non-stop as track and field and cross country, and few Duke teams had as much success in 2022 as the Blue Devil women did on the track. For the full list, click here.
In cinematic style, February's women’s ACC Indoor Championships came down to the final event: the 4x400m race. In an event that head coach Shawn Wilbourn had experimented with all season by using different combinations of runners, it was Jenna Crean, Erin Marsh, Megan McGinnis and Lauren Hoffman who lined up for the Blue Devils. The quartet needed a first-place finish and help from Virginia Tech to earn championship honors for the team. Propelled by a 53.45 leg by McGinnis and anchored by a final kick from Hoffman, they delivered just that.
The victory marked the culmination of a highly successful indoor season and a preview of what was in store for the outdoor and cross country seasons. The women’s squad placed second in the ACC Outdoor Championships in May and shattered a slew of school records, qualifying 13 athletes for the NCAA Outdoor Championships. Of these qualifiers, seven different events were represented, highlighting the team’s many areas of strength. Wilbourn said that the team had “never been this versatile.”
“It's great as a coach to see that vision start to come together. And it's a tribute to our staff and the job they've done this year,” Wilbourn said after May's NCAA East Regional.
In their championship-winning performance, the women’s team medaled in seven different events. Marsh took home two individual medals with a gold in the 60m hurdles and a silver in the long jump to go along with her 4x400m gold, while Isabel Wakefield earned two medals of her own with a silver in the pentathlon and a bronze in the 60m hurdles. Brianna Smith won gold in the long jump, Jenna Crean placed third in the 400m dash and Michaela Reinhart took bronze in the 5000m to round out the medalists.
The team finished with 86 points, tying Virginia Tech for the title and beating third-place Miami by 10 points.
“We want to make this a team sport. We preach one team. And the biggest thing is we want to make sure we're getting points from all of the event groups. And I think our team understands that and they enjoy that,” Wilbourn said. “You know, just that that team camaraderie and in turn, they're more confident because they have the support of every event group.”
The team did not slow down for the outdoor season, breaking even more records in the ACC Outdoor Championships. The meet again came down to the 4x400m, and again, the Blue Devils did not disappoint. In a case of deja vu, McGinnis opened a sizeable lead that Hoffman was able to maintain for a victory. The 3:33.88 facility record pushed Duke ahead of Florida State and into second place.
At the end of the outdoor season, the two athletes who saw the most success at the NCAA Outdoor Championships were both a part of that killer 4x400m team. Hoffman took third place in the 400m hurdles, setting a program record of 55.47 seconds, and Marsh earned the bronze in the heptathlon with a 5,929-point performance. Both athletes were graduate students in 2022 and ended their collegiate careers with plenty of entries in the Duke record books.
The success of Duke’s women runners carried into the fall, as sophomore Amina Maatoug claimed All-American honors in cross country. To close out the calendar year, the Blue Devils performed at the top of their game in their first indoor meet of the new season, including a record-setting 3000m time of 9:02.73. Looking forward to 2023 brings expectations that are at an all-time high, as the Blue Devils look to maintain their dominance.
“I think our performances over the past couple of meets, couple of years has kind of raised our expectations and our women expect to win every time going in,” Wilbourn said after the ACC Outdoor Championships. “We’ve raised the bar to where now, we expect to win.”
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Dom Fenoglio is a Trinity sophomore and an assistant Blue Zone editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.